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Copyright 2004 


Michael Edward Jepson 

For my sons John Michael and Kai and to my parents Leroy and Margaret I dedicate this 


I would like to thank the members of my committee for being patient with my 
circuitous route to finishing my degree. I appreciate Jerry Murray and Jim Cato for 
bearing with my fits and starts over the years and keeping me in mind. I would especially 
like to thank Tony Paredes, who has followed my journey through the early years of my 
career and diligently urged me to finish to the very end. To my chair, Anthony Oliver- 
Smith, I owe a great deal of thanks for hanging in there, even though at times it seemed I 
would never get to this point. His comments and insight have always provided clarity 
and direction to my work that constantly made it much better. Thanks go to Michael 
Robbins who gave me my first fieldwork opportunity and kept me in good physical 
shape. I want to show my appreciation to J. Stephen Thomas, who introduced me to the 
study of fishermen and their communities, I truly enjoyed those early years walking the 
docks and chasing armadillos down dirt roads. To Peggy Overbey I owe a great deal of 
thanks for convincing me to come to the University of Florida and its Anthropology 
program. I could not have survived those first years without her support. Of course I 
would not be here if it was not for Robert Graber, who introduced me to Anthropology 
and encouraged me to pursue a graduate degree. I have never had the opportunity to sit 
and discuss so much about the discipline with anyone since those undergraduate years. 
For his assistance and encouragement I would also like to thank Steve Jacob, a genuine 


To all of the residents of Cortez with whom I had the express pleasure of living 
with, hanging out on their docks and fishing on their boats, I am eternally grateful. Most 
of all I want to thank Alcee Taylor and Plum for letting me become part of their family. I 
miss those morning coffees with Alcee looking out over Sarasota Bay and Plum's pecan 
pie. I also want to thank Blue Fulford and Wanda for everything they provided me over 
the years, especially a place to live and Wanda's wonderful cooking, not to mention 
Blue's smoked mullet. I cannot imagine Cortez without these four people who have done 
so much for me. There are so many others I want to thank but will only mention a few: 
Karen Bell, Linda Molto, Wayne Nield, Trigger and Sheila Mora, Doris Green, Walter 
Bell, Calvin Bell, Junior and Kim Taylor, Larry Fulford, Mark Taylor, Richard and Gerry 
Culbreath, Goose Culbreath, Junie Mora, Vernon Mora, Ray Pringle, Ralph Fulford, 
Mary Green and many others. To all 1 owe a great deal of gratitude for the friendship and 
kindness shown to me. I thank them! 

Lastly, I want to thank some dear friends and family. To Suzanna Smith, with 
whom I discovered Cortez, I want to say thanks for the camaraderie and collegiality that I 
thought was lost in research and academia. Those years traveling the Florida coast are 
some of my most treasured fieldwork memories, especially the long deliberations we had 
in the car. To Ken Donnelly who first stimulated my interest in social science and issues 
of social justice I am indebted a great deal. I thank Ken, whose legacy lives on even 
though he may have gone astray. Finally, I thank my brothers and sister whose love and 
encouragement kept my determination alive. 










Introduction 1 

Coastal Waterfronts Trends 2 

General Outline of Research 13 

Methodology 16 

Overview of Chapters 22 

Anthropological Fieldwork and Advocacy 24 



What is Community? 31 

Natural Resource-Dependent Communities 39 

Tradition and Identity 44 

Tourism: its Promise and its Presence 47 

What is Tourism? 48 

The Political: Economy and Ecology 50 

The Culture of Resistance 53 

Social Justice 57 

Theoretical Themes 59 


The Natural Environment 64 

Florida's Ecosystem and Fishery Resources 67 

Trends in Florida Fishing 68 

Sarasota Bay Fishing Trends 77 

Marine Fisheries Regulation 79 

Social Environment 82 

Florida Population Trends and Demographics 82 

Manatee County and Cortez Population Trends and Demographics 83 

Cortez Population and Demographics 85 


Prehistory 90 

Early Spanish Fisheries 91 

Capt. Bunce's Fishery 92 

Hunter's Point Fishery 92 

North Carolina Fishermen arrive in Cortez 94 

The 1921 Hurricane 99 

The Depression 103 

World War II and a New Era of Organization 105 

Encroachment on the Village 118 

Contemporary Cortez 120 


The Fishery and Fishermen 128 

At the Fish House 138 

Daily Routines and Seasonal Times 144 

Traditional Crafts and Use of Space 148 

Place Names and Sacred Places 152 

The Close Ties of Kinship 156 


Issues, Identities and Interests 160 

Class, Power and Knowledge in a Natural Resource Conflict 174 

Resistance, Both Within and Without 185 


Epilogue 203 

Post Net Ban 208 

Conclusion 213 






Table page 

1-1 Events Timeline 20 

6-1 The Marine Environmental Concern Scale for Commercial and Recreational 

Fishermen from Florida 181 

7-1 Percentage Change in Average Annual Florida Commercial Landings, Effort and 

Dockside Value for Selected Species after the Net Ban 210 



Figure Page 

1-1 Station in front of Star Fish Co 11 

2-1 Cortez, Florida and Surrounding Communities 29 

3-1 Cortez as Located on Florida's Gulf Coast 64 

3-2 Florida's Total Commercial Fisheries Landings from 1974 to 2002 68 

3-3 Florida West Coast Total Commercial Fisheries Landings from 1974 to 2002 69 

3-4 Bluefish Landings for Recreational and Commercial Fishermen from 1981-1996. .71 

3-5 Florida Spotted Sea Trout Landings for Commercial and Recreational Sectors from 
1981-1996 72 

3-6 Florida Landings of Mullet for Commercial and Recreational Sectors from 1981- 

1996 73 

3-7 Florida Landings of King Mackerel for Commercial and Recreational Sectors from 
1981-1996 74 

3-8 Florida landings of Spanish Mackerel for Commercial and Recreational Sectors from 
1981-1996 76 

3-9 Florida's Total Population from 1830-2000 83 

3-10 Florida Coastal County and Noncoastal County Population from 1920 to 1990 84 

3-1 1 Manatee County Personal Income from Fishing for 1984 through 1997 85 

3-12 Manatee County Personal Income from Service Industries for 1984 through 1997.86 

4-1 Historic Village of Cortez South of Cortez Road 121 

5-1 Gill Net Configuration. 128 

5-2 Net Fisherman and his Kicker with Mullet in Net 130 


5-3 Trammel Net Configuration 132 

5-4 Cortez Village with Location of Fish Houses 140 

5-5 Part Time Labor Used During Roe Mullet Season 142 

5-6 Seasonal Cycles within the Natural Resource Community of Cortez 145 

5-7 Banner at Seafood Festival 147 

5-8 Fisherman's Yard in Cortez 149 

5-9 Wives Packing Mullet in Ice 151 

5-10 Placename Mural on the A.P. Bell Fish House 153 

6-1 Image of Dolphin Caught in Net in Florida Sportsman, March 1992 161 

6-2 Author Peter Matthiessen with Cortez Historian, Doris Green 171 

6-3 Tallahassee Mullet Ruling Protest 1 85 

6-4 Burton's Store Located across from A.P. Bell Fish Company 188 

7-1 Old Schoolhouse at West End of Village 21 1 

7-2 Taylor Boatworks 212 


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School 

of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the 

Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy 



Michael Edward Jepson 

May 2004 

Chair: Anthony Oliver Smith 
Major Department: Anthropology 

The dissertation examines the impact of an increasing emphasis upon recreational 
tourism by state, regional and local governments on the fishing community of Cortez, 
Florida. Of particular interest is how resistance by fishermen toward increasing 
regulation on the water and the residents of the village toward increasing development on 
land influences the perception of who they are and affects their ability to stem the tide of 
an influential "growth machine." 

The fast-paced growth of Florida's coastal counties has produced a demographic 
shift where once isolated, rural, working-class fishing communities are now surrounded 
by middle to upper middle class leisure and recreation communities. These newly 
established communities have decidedly different values concerning the nature of work, 
family, the environment and community. These differing values become apparent as 

recreational fishing interest groups attempt to remove traditional fishing gear from state 
waters in the form of a "net ban." 

Resistance for commercial fishermen reinforces a strong sense of independence 
and autonomy within their work and lives, yet it does not seem an acceptable image to 
the general public. The image of commercial fishermen that prevails during the media 
campaign to push the "net ban" initiative to a constitutional amendment has a significant 
impact on their fight over natural resources. While recreational fishing groups portrayed 
commercial fishermen as outlaws and destroyers of the resource, commercial fishermen 
and their families envisioned a different image more akin to Native Americans being 
pushed off their land. 

The net ban campaign was successful and removed entanglement nets from state 
waters. It was a devastating defeat for commercial fishermen who have tried to regroup 
and have switched to other fisheries or sought other employment. Cortez, the 
community, has also regrouped, but the closure of two fish houses has brought into 
question the compatible use of waterfront property that could easily succumb to tourism 
and recreational development. Resistance continues to be mounted, but whether it can 
prevail will certainly be a key as to whether this community can retain some of the 
identity it has fashioned for over a century. 




Coastal communities worldwide are experiencing a number of interdependent 
changes that often include rapidly growing populations, increasing regulation, 
degradation of local ecosystems and, in some cases, a complete collapse of important 
marine resources. Any one of these particular changes has the capability of initiating 
further change; together they may represent a severe threat to a community's 
sustainability and ability to endure. 

This research will explore how the residents of one Southwest Central Florida 
fishing community have resisted threats to their occupation and traditional life ways as a 
result of an increasing emphasis upon recreational tourism within the state, which 
ultimately challenged their identity and the future sustainability of their community. The 
purpose of this research will be to characterize their resistance to change within the 
context of natural resource dependency. This work will provide insight into the processes 
that foster resistance and how it is viewed outside the community. In addition, it will 
provide an understanding of the important role identity plays in maintaining one's sense 
of place and belonging within a natural resource community and the contradictions that 
become apparent when change begins to reach further and further into traditional 
community life. 

Coastal Waterfronts Trends 

Upward or downward shifts in population and the subsequent changes in the 
economic resource base have affected many natural resource dependent communities 
worldwide. The population growth rate for Florida's coastal counties has been increasing 
at a much faster rate than that for non-coastal counties. With this growing population 
there has been a shift in the demographic character of Florida's coastal communities, with 
many more elderly and retired individuals residing here full time and enjoying the 
moderate weather. Isolated rural communities like Cedar Key, which were once 
important commercial fishing centers, are now more dependent upon recreational fishing 
and tourism. Further south, the Key West waterfront, once a harbor for commercial 
fishing vessels, is now crowded with cruise terminals, tourist excursion boats, and charter 
fishing vessels. Rapid population growth along with the ebb and flow of seasonal 
residents and tourists seeking recreation along Florida's coasts has displaced commercial 
fishing operations from these former working waterfronts (Adams 1987; Adams et al. 

Elsewhere, Vietnamese refugees entering inshore shrimp fisheries in Alabama and 
Texas have transformed southern coastal fishing communities. Oil and gas exploration in 
other parts of the Gulf have had impacts on the physical coast and the economies of 
coastal communities, both positive and negative. However, an underlying emphasis upon 
recreational tourism is always a part of the mix. Over the past 14 years I have reflected 
on these coastal trends and the impacts that have affected the fishing communities in 
which I have conducted research; the experience was instrumental in forming the focus of 
this research. 

Over time, I have talked with countless fishermen and their families from Texas 
to North Carolina. Often it was business and a structured interview, other times it was 
casual and about the weather, inevitably it was about fish, fishing and being a fisherman. 
Born and raised in a small Midwestern-farming town, I could identify with an 
individual's attachment to the land-feeling a part of it as you cultivated, planted and 
harvested a crop. The fishermen I talked with expressed a similar commitment to their 
occupation and connection to their environment; some even thought of themselves as 
farming the sea. But, there was always more of an edginess in the way they spoke of 
fishing in comparison; it seemed more of a challenge, always a little more exciting and 
far more dangerous. It set them apart and made them seem different as they talked of 
work on the water and that unstable platform they considered their home away from 
home, their vessel— their boat. However, it was not only fishermen that afforded that 
distance, others also spoke of them as existing on the margins of society. 

As I traveled from one fishing community to another, when I would mention that 
I was going to interview fishermen people would say, "Oh, they won't talk to you! They 
don't like strangers!" or "They don't trust anyone." Fishermen also would make similar 
comments about their counterparts living in another fishing community: "Oh, you don't 
want to go down there. Those guys are not too keen on strangers. They can be pretty 
rough." Nevertheless, I can honestly say they rarely lived up to that stereotype. 
Certainly, they were surly at times, and tough, and "macho," but those seemed to be 
simple ground rules, a rough exterior that often masked a much more sincere and kinder 

I will always remember in 1985 as I conducted personal interviews in the town of 
Bayou La Batre, one shrimp boat captain had somehow avoided me all summer. I finally 
caught up with him as he was working on his boat toward the middle of August. I stood 
there explaining to him the survey research I was conducting and asked if he would be 
willing to participate. He glanced up at me with a mischievous smile and I knew 
something was about to happen. I turned in time to realize I was standing in front of the 
exhaust pipe of the generator motor upon which he had been working. I closed my eyes 
just in time as he punched the starter button, turning the engine over just enough to belch 
out a cloud of black smoke that quickly flew past my face. As his laughter subsided, I 
asked, "Will you do the interview?" He said, "Yeah, come on in my office." Similar 
pranks by fishermen, targeting other fishermen, were also common at the many docks I 
visited and seemed a customary test of perseverance. Nonetheless, I have invariably 
found fishermen easy to approach and easy to engage in conversation and, more often 
than not, for a much longer conversation than I anticipated. 

The mystique and the stereotype that surround fishermen and their communities 
have always fascinated me. The often-repeated warning of "don't go there" was baffling 
as I continually found fishermen and their families to be contrary to what I was told. 
That is not to say that some were not rude and standoffish, but they were the exception, 
not the rule. And I must admit that on more than one occasion after a lengthy interview 
and constant reaffirmation that I was a graduate student conducting survey research, a 
fisherman would once again question whether or not I was really working with the IRS. 
Regardless, there seems to be a contradiction that continues to endure to this day about 
who fishermen are and how inviting their communities may be. I am not the first to 

recognize this, as others like Acheson (1988) have found similar stereotypes and Gilmore 
(1990) has fittingly outlined both the positive and negative source and symbol of this 
meaningful image. 

The essence of the fisherman stereotype is his claim to independence (Thomas et 
al. 1995). Acheson (1981) characterized the cross-cultural literature in which fishermen 
from around the world displayed this particular trait. In his ethnography of independent 
truckers, Agar (1986) suggests that there are similarities between truckers and 
commercial fishermen. Both are affected by the contradiction between cultural image 
and social reality, similar to that cultural icon of independence, the cowboy of the 
American West. The cowboy is the emblem of unrestrained personal freedom, a national 
theme according to Agar (1986:9). He had a special sense of justice, according to Bellah 
et al. (1985), who points out that it was difficult for him to fully belong to society, for to 
serve he must stand alone not depending on others and not submitting to their wishes 

The identification with this symbolic image of the American West is ironic, for 
both truckers and fishermen are highly regulated and both are dependent upon others as 
they endeavor to fulfill their obligations of work; fishermen especially can become 
financially dependent upon fish house owners as they build up debt obligations for 
fishing gear and repairs. What is even more contradictory is that during research with 
fishing families in Florida prior to my dissertation fieldwork, it was not the cultural 
image of the cowboy and independence that was often being conjured up by those 
interviewed, but that of Native Americans and their historic demise. Fishermen saw 
themselves as being pushed off their reservation, just like Native Americans had in the 

past. Furthermore, it was the image of outlaw that prevailed in the campaign by 
recreational fishing interests to remove traditional small-scale net gear from state waters 
(Smith and Jepson 1993). That contradiction between cultural image and social reality 
for fishermen and their community has been a recurring theme during much of the 
research in which I have participated. 

In 1990, 1 was hired as Field Coordinator on a research project that was to 
examine the impact of increasing regulation on gill net fishermen and their families 
(Smith and Jepson 1993). Ninety-five in-depth interviews about the impact of 
regulations on their business and personal lives were conducted with fishing families 
around the state of Florida from 1 990 through 1 992. I arranged and conducted all 
interviews with the assistance of two different female interviewers over the course of the 
study. This research differed from most of my past experience in that interviews were 
conducted with both fisherman and partner. The first half of the interview was conducted 
with both together. In the second half of the interview, I interviewed the fisherman and 
the female interviewer the wife or partner. This provided an entirely different perspective 
on the business of fishing and provided me with new insight on the family life of 
fishermen. It was during this research that I became aware of the importance of 
independence not only to fishermen, but also as an important characteristic of fishing 

It was also during the conduct of that research that I became acquainted with the 
community of Cortez. One of the immediate features that struck me as unique about this 
community was the relatively undisturbed working waterfront. Having visited many 
other fishing villages around the state, I had seen no other commercial fishing waterfront 

that seemed so confined and with so little intrusion from recreational tourism. This was 
in spite of the community being surrounded by a sprawling coastal urban environment. 
In addition, Cortez showed a strong sense of kinship and unity that did not seem to be as 
openly present in other communities visited. These factors were important in my 
decision to select Cortez as my fieldwork site. 

Originally, my research was to focus upon traditional or local knowledge of the 
environment. It was obvious from my previous work with shrimp fishermen and my 
experience with net fishermen in Florida that there was a distinct difference in how 
fishermen and marine scientists came to understand the same ecosystem. I intended to 
document fishermen's local knowledge and to explore their concept of conservation and 
folk models about the ecosystem in which they were so accustomed to working. 

My interest in this subject led me to create a modified attitudinal scale based upon 
the New Environmental Paradigm (NEP) that was used in two different surveys. One 
survey was a mail survey with recreational fishermen selected randomly from around the 
state; the other was conducted with commercial fishermen and their wives from the 
fishing family study previously mentioned. Results from these surveys will be discussed 

My interest in the environmental context of fishing soon brought my attention to 
the concept of natural resource community. Rural sociologists whose focus was most 
often on terrestrial resources rather than marine resources have long studied natural 
resource dependent communities. Gale (1991) used the term Natural Resource 
Manufacturing and Administration (NR-MAN) coastal community in which the 
economic base revolves around the exploitation of water-based natural resources. Dyer 


et al. (1992) used the more concise term of natural resource community. As most 
research shows, these types of communities differ markedly from other types of 
communities and are most often rural; their dependence upon natural resources exposes 
them to a number of economic challenges which other communities do not face. In 
addition, there is an important impact upon the social life of these communities. This 
was apparent in all fishing communities I have worked in, but was also an important part 
of my past growing up in a farming community. 

In November 1991, 1 asked a retired Cortez commercial fisherman what he 
thought of my planned move to the village to conduct dissertation fieldwork. I explained 
that I was interested in spending time with commercial net fishermen to gain an 
understanding of their fishing methods and how they interacted with their environment. 
He thought it was a great idea but he had one request, "Just tell them the truth!" I was 
pleased that he was open to the idea and thought his comment to be interesting. I discuss 
this important comment later in Chapter 6. 

I asked another active commercial fisherman his opinion of my wish to do 
dissertation fieldwork in the community and he, too, encouraged me to come there to 
live. He even offered a place to live at a greatly reduced rent, which was vital to my 
being able to live within the community as high rents were typical of the market in and 
outside the community. This is another common impact of a growing population and 
increased tourism along the coast. It is most often referred to as "gentrification," where 
coastal property becomes increasingly desirable and much more valuable (Gale 1991). 
The subsequent higher property value and rents often preclude younger fishing families 
from being able to own or rent property in their communities of origin. In addition, it has 

forced commercial fishermen to change long established work habits or move to other 
locations away from the waterfront (Gale 1991; McGoodwin 1986). 

Shortly after moving to the village I discussed the possibility of changing the 
focus of my research to tourism and its impact upon the community at the request of my 
advisor. I had recently become aware of plans to establish a maritime museum within the 
community and therefore I was very curious about this new area of research. 
Furthermore, I had witnessed concern by several community members over the impacts 
of expanding tourism within and around the community. It seemed an appropriate topic 
given the immediate context of events. 

The recurring theme of contradictory image and changing identity for fishermen 
and their communities seemed even more relevant to this new area of research as a very 
negative image of commercial fishermen was being used over and over in the outdoor 
sections of local newspapers as recreational fishing interests were attempting to denigrate 
the commercial fishing industry. I felt in some ways this changing image could be linked 
to the growing emphasis upon tourism as outdoor writers were writing for a recreational 
fishing public who were often seasonal residents and tourists or at least of a different 
socio-economic class. The focus on the impact of tourism would later become even more 
important as the campaign to remove traditional fishing methods would consume this and 
many other commercial fishing communities. 

After moving to Cortez, I began attending evening meetings of several 
community organizations: Organized Fishermen of Florida (OFF), Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage (FISH), and the Seafood Festival Committee. Through my attendance 


at these meetings I became familiar with most of those individuals who were active in 
community affairs. 

Of particular interest were the activities of FISH, which was the organization that 
was spearheading the establishment of the maritime museum. I eventually became an 
officer of the organization and helped produce their first newsletter. In addition, I was 
instrumental in helping FISH secure a grant from the Florida Humanities Council in 
which I was a principal investigator along with another resident of the village. That 
individual was a photographer and architectural historian, in addition to being designated 
Director of FISH. His role for the grant was to photograph the individuals who were to 
be interviewed and some photographs were used for stations that were placed around the 
village. My participation and its implications are discussed further in the methodology 
section below. 

I conducted thirty-five oral histories with residents of the community as part of 
that grant. In addition, and as a final product, several lectures were delivered in Sarasota 
and Manatee Counties describing the project and the outcome. As mentioned, one of the 
outcomes from the grant was a series of stations within the village that documented the 
traditional life ways and skills of the residents in this natural resource community. Each 
station consists of photographs and text describing a particular aspect of traditional life: 
work, music, food production, and local place names (Figurel-1). 

Another important organization within the community is the local chapter of 
Organized Fishermen of Florida (OFF). I was an honorary member (my dues were paid 
by a local fish house) and I participated in several functions that raised money for that 
and other organizations within the community, such as the Seafood Festival and 


community fish fries. The OFF meetings became an important venue for decision- 
making by the fishermen as to how they would fight the campaign to remove traditional 
gear from state waters. It was also an important source of information on management 
issues and was the one place where conflicts among fishermen were addressed openly in 
public. Meetings of the OFF often brought together two very different factions of 

Figure 1 - 1 . Station in front of Star Fish Co. 

commercial fishermen in Cortez and provided for some very tense and sometimes 

raucous gatherings. 

Although I was never formally a member, another important organization within 
the community is the Cortez Village Historical Society. Started by a former resident who 
remains as its leader, it became a vehicle for early resistance to development within the 
village. It was also the purveyor of a particular history of Cortez that was not shared by 
all Cortesians, which provided some impetus for the formation of FISH. A testament to 
its activism, but also to its division, there are probably few fishing communities, no less 


unincorporated places, which have two local organizations dedicated to the historic 
preservation of the community and its traditional culture. 

While I lived in Cortez I spent time on the docks and at the fish houses talking to 
fishermen and residents of the community on a daily basis. I expressed an interest in 
spending some time on the water and was offered the opportunity to go fishing with 
several fishermen during my stay. I participated in both the purse seine bait fishery and 
the small boat gill net fishery on several occasions, performing a limited but helpful role 
in each case. For a divergent perspective, I also contacted the Florida Marine Patrol and 
spent time on the water with a marine patrol officer as he made his rounds. 

It became apparent that many Cortesians challenged the progression of change 
they confronted on a daily basis. In fact, it became obvious that they felt the need to 
develop resistance to several impending changes, i.e., the demolition of the local historic 
hotel, the proposed fixed span bridge to Anna Maria Island to replace the drawbridge, and 
the growing campaign to remove their traditional gear from state waters. All were 
challenges that brought into question: who they were, how they wanted to live their lives 
and what their future would be. These challenges, although not seemingly related to 
tourism directly, were connected and certainly related to the burgeoning population 
surrounding this community that was drawn to the climate and recreational opportunities. 

Throughout the year there is an ebb and flow of seasonal residents and tourists 
which influences the pace of life and the make up of nearby communities. Within the 
community of Cortez there is also this seasonal fluctuation. The local economy of 
Bradenton and Manatee County thrives on these seasonal visitors and therefore the local 


government tends to support the economic benefit they bring. Unfortunately, the growth 
that comes with such an economic boon is not always as welcome. 

My experience in other areas of the Gulf of Mexico and my travels in Florida 
greatly influenced my choice to study the different facets of life for fishermen and their 
families in Cortez and the interconnectedness with tourism and growth. My many 
conversations with fishermen and their families reinforced the persistent themes I have 
mentioned that will be explored further in this research. 

General Outline of Research 

This research will explore the perceived threats facing the commercial fishing 
village of Cortez in Southwest Central Florida that stem from the seemingly inevitable 
growth and change along its coast. It examines the impact of an increasing emphasis 
upon recreational tourism from state, regional and local government and how resistance 
within the community to the resulting change has influenced perceptions of identity both 
within and outside the community. Questions concerning the issue of social justice are 
also considered as the identity of the commercial sector of the fishing public is 
manipulated in a political battle over access to natural resources. 

This community, like so many others that were first settled in a frontier 
environment, still holds onto the ideal of a simpler rural lifestyle, a lifestyle that seems in 
direct contrast to the urban sprawl and coastal change fueled by the growth of 
recreational tourism development along Florida's coasts. That same rural ideal has 
shaped the identity of this community and many of its longtime residents, an identity that 
is often as contradictory as is the belief in a rural lifestyle. It is also an identity that 
seems to shift between righteous individualist to outlaw in one instance and from 


isolationist to integrationist in another. The willingness to hold on to any identity 
becomes important as the community faces the challenge of competing notions of who 
they are. These competing notions are often unflattering toward fishermen and their 
communities and are prevalent among urban Floridians and seasonal visitors to the state 
who are unfamiliar with the rural and often isolated fishing community. 

Various forms of resistance to modernity, such as social protest and illicit fishing 
techniques, have evolved over time within Cortez. Serious threats to their occupation, 
community, and cultural heritage have forced these residents to engage in a number of 
strategies to resist pressures that stem from high impact government projects, commercial 
development, increasing regulation of fisheries, and attempts to abolish traditional fishing 
practices. They have resisted change by organizing formal challenges to both private and 
government interests at the local, state, and federal level. Yet, they have also acquired 
resources from and enlisted the services of those very same governmental agencies to 
assist them in their challenges. 

Another, more informal, resistance is generally hidden from the majority of 
residents and others. That resistance comes through daily challenges to increased 
competition and fisheries' regulations through illicit fishing techniques on the water, 
away from the larger landlocked community. This latter form of resistance is associated 
with feelings of independence and defiance that have helped fashion an identity that 
commercial fishermen have traditionally cultivated and most recently have tried to 
modify, the image of outlaw. Their antagonists throughout the campaign to disallow the 
use of entanglement gill nets in state waters used that image effectively against them. 


Both the formal and informal resistances were more successful in the past, but 
recent events have shaped a new political ecology and political economy that challenge 
fishermen's sense of place. In the early years of fishery management, state and federal 
agencies relied on commercial fishermen for data collection and assessments of the stock. 
The more recent trend is toward independent sampling and reliance upon complex 
scientific modeling. Their ability to influence the political arena has also diminished over 
the years as they have become outnumbered, both on the water and land, by a much more 
affluent and better educated sector of recreational fishing public. With fewer skills and 
far fewer financial resources, commercial fishermen and their families were unable to 
sway public opinion against a very polished media campaign to remove their traditional 
gear from state waters. 

This research examines the two forms of resistance that have been employed to 
challenge the many intrusions facing this community: 1) the formal and more public 
resistance within the bureaucratic and political arena; and 2) the informal and everyday 
cultural resistance on the water. In general, both men and women participated in the 
more formal forms of resistance: women through their organizational skills and writing 
capabilities, men through their efforts of political lobbying. Men, on the other hand, 
participated solely in the everyday resistance on the water through illicit fishing methods. 

It is difficult to address these matters as they can have serious implications for 
those who have participated; however, this activity is critical to the discussion of 
resistance. My discussion of illegal activity will be done in such a manner so as to avoid 
mcriminating anyone. I discuss this issue at further length in the methodology section. 


As they have organized support for their occupation, community, and cultural 
heritage, commercial fishermen and their families have found themselves questioning 
their role and identity within their own society. The time-honored values of hard work 
and strong kinship ties seem archaic in a society that struggles to accept rapid change and 
increased mobility. Their survival rests with their ability to find a voice as a rapidly 
growing population, often with competing goals, continues to encroach upon their 
community and sense of place. 

It is this contradictory relationship between this community and its changing 
landscape that is explored through an analysis of the village's activities during one of 
their most critical challenges, the campaign to ban entanglement nets in state waters. 
That fight to maintain their traditional fishing method forced them to reflect upon their 
occupation, community, sense of place and identity. All are inextricably tied together 
and form a focal point as various individuals and groups worked to hold on to fleeting 
images of times past, tried to maintain a contradictory rural lifestyle, and anticipated an 
uncertain future. 


I hesitate to call this research eclectic in its theoretical approach although it does 
draw upon several theories of human behavior and thought. My training as an 
anthropologist began with a strong emphasis in materialist theory and quantitative 
methods. It has since been molded into a more ecological perspective, but has been 
influenced by economic anthropology and community studies and an increasing 
utilization of qualitative methodology. I do tend to be eclectic in my approach to solving 
problems in the sense that you need to use what works. Harris (1979) has said that 


eclecticism leads to "perpetual scientific disaster: middle-range theories, contradictory 
theories, and unparsimonious theories without end" (1979:288). However, the strength of 
eclecticism is its broad approach, its "interdisciplinary focus." Cultural materialism or 
any other theoretical perspective may have too narrow a focus and might miss the 
intersystem relationships while focusing on the intrasystem relationships (Garbarino 
1992:15). This is not a criticism of the Cultural Materialist approach as it would be very 
appropriate as there are important infrastructural mechanisms, the interface between the 
environment and technology, which influence the community and the occupation. Yet, 
because this is an initial exploration a more inductive approach utilizing participant 
observation may be suitable. Attempting to gather quantitative data through surveys may 
be too cumbersome and miss subtle relationships within the community. 

It is my intention to illuminate the interrelationship between various components 
of this particular cultural system within this natural resource community and examine 
their influence upon its residents. Specifically, I intend to draw attention to how people 
within a natural resource community adapt to and resist change given the many different 
resources they have at hand. 

This study is descriptive and does not emphasize any one theoretical perspective. 
However, it draws upon a body of work from several fields including community science 
and community development; political economy and ecology; ecological anthropology; 
cultural resistance and tourism. Each of these fields provides an important perspective 
that is significant in forging a more holistic understanding of this community and how it 
has adapted to change. Although this may be one case study and is limited by both time 
and place, I believe that further research with this perspective can inform the body of 


literature on natural resource community and community development with a particular 
emphasis upon tourism and coastal change. 

Methodologically, this research relies on ethnographic methods of participant 
observation and key informant interviews as the primary means of data collection. I 
spent a great deal of time assisting the director of the Florida Institute of Saltwater 
Heritage (FISH) who was working on several projects within the village. This entailed 
meeting with various different groups within the county and local area to locate support 
for the proposed maritime center. We conducted a census of historic structures as part of 
the proposed National Register nomination and prepared several proposals to fund a 
variety of projects to document folk life in the village. In addition, I also spent time 
hanging out at fish houses, attending meetings and participating in village events and 
going out on a few fishing boats. I would take field notes either during or after such 
events depending upon the nature of the undertaking. I was also able to obtain minutes of 
meetings for the Organized Fishermen of Florida that I was unable to attend and therefore 
had records of some events where I was not present. Archive material from local 
libraries and local historical organizations were also obtained when available. As part of 
a Florida Humanities Council grant that was awarded to FISH with me as one of the 
principal investigators, I conducted thirty-five oral histories with village residents, some 
of which were transcribed through word processing and both electronic and paper copies 
were archived in the village. The interview schedule used while conducting those 
interviews is included in Appendix A. Additionally, I was invited to spend time at many 
family gatherings to enjoy some very good home-cooking and engage in long discussions 
with my hosts about fishing and village life, both past and present. 


Although it is primarily qualitative in its approach, quantitative data are presented 
where and when needed. Demographic and landings data provided by government 
agencies are used to provide context and perspective on growth and change for Florida, 
Manatee County and Cortez. In addition, survey data collected from recreational and 
commercial fishermen are examined to explore questions of opinion and attitude about 
the environment. A scale I created by modifying the New Environmental Paradigm Scale 
to reflect an emphasis upon the marine environment was added to two different surveys 
conducted with two different populations of Florida residents and is presented in Chapter 
6 where a comparison of responses to items in the scale is discussed. 

The time between my fieldwork and the completion of this dissertation has 
spanned a time period much longer than anticipated. For some perspective I have 
presented in Table. 1-1 a timeline which chronicles some of the important events in the 
history of Cortez including my own arrival and departure. Since leaving the village of 
Cortez there have been several important achievements and events that do not appear on 
the timeline. In early chapters I describe Cortez as it existed prior to the net ban in order 
to give some perspective on the important changes which followed that significant event. 
In the Epilogue and Conclusion chapter important changes after the net ban amendment, 
such as changes in seafood landings and noteworthy changes within the organizations 
active in preserving the village are presented to assess the impact of the amendment. 

As James Spradley has said, as ethnographers we must "deal with three 
fundamental aspects of human experience, what people do, what people know, and the 
things people make and use" (Spradley 1980:5). I would add to that and suggest we must 
also deal with where people live. 

Table 1-1. Events Timeline 

1879 Arrival of North Carolina fishermen to Hunters Point (later named Cortez) 
1 888 Cortez Post Office opens 

1920s Stop-netting introduced 

1921 Hurricane 

Neriah Taylor establishes boat building operation 
1930s Depression 
1940s Tink Fulford builds fish house 
1 950s Legislature outlaws stop netting 

Outboard motors introduced 
1960s Local ordinances appear that outlaw fishing in subdivision canals 

Nylon nets introduced 

Organized Fishermen of Florida (OFF) is created 
1970s "Kicker" boats introduced 

Blue Fulford becomes president of OFF 

Drug smuggling is at its peak 

First resistance to condominium development 
1980s Florida Marine Fisheries Commission (FMFC) created 

Cortez designated historic village by County 

Florida Conservation Association formed 

Cortez Village Historical Society (CVHS) formed 

Resistance to Chris Craft marina successful 

1 st annual Cortez seafood festival 

1991 Coast Guard razes historic Albion Inn 

Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) formed 

1 992 Cortez Maritime Center plans developed 
Cortez fieldwork begins in January 

Cortez Bridge removed from five year plan in February. 

Save our Sealife campaign begins to collect signatures for ballot referendum 

Professional Fisheries Conservation Coalition (PFCC)formed in December 

1993 Save our Seafood campaign initiated by OFF in January 

Save our Sealife campaign collects enough signatures for ballot referendum 
Cortez fieldwork ends in July 

1 994 Peter Matthiessen visits Cortez in September 

Net Ban forum held at University of Florida on November 3 rd 
Net Ban Amendment passes November 8 th 

1995 Hired by South Atlantic Fishery Management council 
Cortez listed as National Historic District 

Net ban becomes effective in July 

1998 Hired Florida Fishing Communities project 

1999 Cortez designated Waterfronts Florida community 
2004 Dissertation Defense 


Certainly, the context in which people do the things they do, what they know and 
the objects they make and use are important aspects of any ethnography. Those who rely 
upon natural resources for their livelihood are inextricably tied to a particular place or a 
particular type of place. When that place, landscape or environment begins to change, 
there is set in motion a process of adaptation that may ignore, embrace or resist that 
change. Because natural resources are in a continuous state of fluctuation, residents of 
natural resource-dependent communities are often adapting to resource availability and 
seasonal variations which make adapting to change part of their daily lives. But when 
those changes become as intrusive as to threaten an individual's livelihood and force one 
to question one's own identity, as with the net ban campaign, resistance should not be 
unexpected. However, resistance for individuals who live in natural resource 
communities may be more than a reaction to certain circumstances; it may be an integral 
part of their culture. Therefore, acts of resistance become adapted to the circumstances 
and are not newly adopted forms of behavior. 

Overall, this research is what Agar calls, "an exploration into humanscapes," 
finding out where people live, who they are and how they live (Agar 1986:12). It is 
intended to show the interrelationship among resistance to change, reliance upon natural 
resources and identity. In doing so, it is proposed that this research will provide a unique 
perspective that builds upon previous research within each of these fields by identifying 
the important links between them. Furthermore, it is hoped that this research will also 
complement other anthropological and related research conducted among fishermen and 
their communities in the United States and other parts of the world. 


Overview of Chapters 

Chapter 2 provides a review of a wide range of literature on community, tourism, 
political economy and ecology, social justice and cultural resistance. Furthermore, 
articles that tie several of these themes together are included to help emphasize the 
relationship among these different topics and their connectedness. The community 
literature covers topics such as defining community, the role of place and place 
attachment, with a special emphasis upon natural resource dependent communities. The 
next area of interest examines the larger issue of tourism and its impact worldwide, 
including case examples of the more immediate impact upon coastal communities that are 
often tourist destinations and may have particular ties to fishing. Included in the literature 
on political economy and ecology are several case studies of power struggles that come 
with economic and ecological change. These articles illustrate the impact of growth and 
the economic power that it can generate. Furthermore, specific examples of the power 
struggles that ensue over ecological change and the importance of knowledge and how 
that knowledge is defined are included to help demonstrate the similarities between these 
case examples and Cortez. 

Both the natural environment and social environment are the subjects of Chapter 
3. The important ecosystems along Florida's coast that provide habitat for those species 
offish essential to both the commercial and recreational sectors are described. Of 
particular importance are descriptions of Sarasota Bay and the important habitat and fish 
species in that local ecosystem that surrounds Cortez. A brief history and discussion of 
marine fisheries regulation are also integrated into this discussion. The social 
environment is described using demographics for the state, the county and Cortez. Key 


indicators of change, like population and other data from both the historic and more 
recent census, are included. Much of the data in this chapter relate to Cortez prior to the 
net ban. More recent data are presented in Chapter 7 in the conclusion. 

A condensed history of Cortez is provided in Chapter 4 that traces the area's 
development from prehistory to the present. The historical fishing endeavors by 
Timucuans and Tocobago to the Cubans and finally to the North Carolina immigrants is 
chronicled in this chapter. Early descriptions of tourists and tourism are also included. 
The majority of the village history is derived from two local histories that have been 
published and oral histories conducted by me during my time in the village. 

Chapter 5 describes the culture within a natural resource community. A 
description of the inshore net fishery provides a closer look at the everyday life and the 
seasonal round of the small-scale gill net fisherman. Descriptions of boats, gear and 
methods of fishing are included along with how fishermen develop traditional skills and 
utilize space. Through the use of informant mapping I describe commonly known fishing 
locations, each with its own history and lore. Related to that is a discussion of local 
knowledge of the environment and its utility. Finally, the chapter contains a discussion 
of the kinship ties within the community and how some areas become designated as 
sacred because of their association with kin and/or events that are important to the 
folkways of a fishing community. 

There are three critical areas that I explore in Chapter 6. The first is the 
importance of image and how both commercial fishermen and their detractors use image 
to help defme their identity and the identity of others. The second is class and power and 
how it differs among those who are working class and those who are not. Included is a 


discussion of how different views of knowledge and science can further differentiate 
between them. The chapter concludes with a discussion of both the formal and informal 
resistance that I found in Cortez and the important consequences that resistance can have 
in the face of change. 

In Chapter 7, the Epilogue and Conclusion, I examine how tourism, through its 
subtle and not so subtle ways, has affected each of the key facets of culture and social 
interaction in this natural resource community. The successful campaign to remove nets 
from state waters and its impact are discussed, with events just prior to the vote on the 
ballot initiative shortly after my leaving the village of Cortez of particular interest. 
Finally, an examination of mitigation by the state is also reported with a discussion of the 
only pre-net ban/post-net ban research conducted among fishermen and their families 
(Smith et al. 2003). 

Anthropological Fieldwork and Advocacy 

One common problem that anthropologists face as they conduct fieldwork is their 
own involvement in their research. The very nature of ethnography lends itself to a 
whole host of problems and issues that have caused a critique of the very nature of the 
enterprise and discipline (Marcus and Fisher 1986). However, anthropologists have long 
recognized the difficulties of working and living among those who they study and the 
implications of living in another culture (Powdermaker 1966). 

I became much more involved in many different village activities once accepted 
as a member of the community. As mentioned before, I was an active member of the 
organization FISH. I became secretary, developed their first newsletter, and was 
involved in grant writing and working on grants. I served on the Seafood Festival 


committee and worked the festival. I was going out on boats with the fishermen of the 
village. Moreover, I attended family gatherings and celebrations and became a regular 
fixture at a couple of households. These are necessary measures for participant 
observation and ethnography. Even so, it is hard to separate your life from your research 
when you become so closely involved with the people you study. I have made some 
lifelong friends during the course of this research. I worked hard to help them realize 
some of their ideas for a better community. In some cases, we were successful and in 
others, we were not. I have chosen not use pseudonyms, as many people in the village 
are eager to see what I have written. I have tried to protect identities but most of those 
who are knowledgeable will be able to discern an individual's character from the context. 
I hope that I have not offended anyone, as it was not my intention to do so. Although my 
participation may have influenced my research, my involvement also provided me with 
unparalleled access to a way of life that would not be accessible otherwise. I was 
accepted as part of the community, but my status as outsider allowed me to gain the 
confidence of many different factions within the community. Most community members 
considered my work and research to be a benefit for the community and not so much as 
an advocate for the commercial fishing industry. 

My involvement and close association with the community of Cortez included 
taking part in their resistance to the net ban campaign. I chose to do so not because I was 
a resident in their community or friend to so many, I did so because I considered the 
proposed amendment to be bad policy for fisheries management and a social injustice. I 
wrote editorials against the campaign to ban nets and was instrumental in bringing Peter 
Matthiessen to Cortez to speak against the net ban. After leaving the village, I continued 


to write editorials in the local paper and was also active in organizing a forum on the 
issue at the University of Florida. 

Although I did not support the net ban and was a vocal opponent, I tried to make 
my argument as balanced as possible. In many letters to the editor, I tried to point out the 
discrepancy in many arguments for the net ban and tried to present information to support 
my argument. Nevertheless, I was marked as an opponent to the net ban, a position that 
was questioned later when the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council decided to 
interview me for a position on their staff. During my interview, I explained how I 
considered such a policy a bad precedent for managing fisheries, as the political nature of 
such an amendment did not allow for impartial debate over the issues. Furthermore, I 
anticipated that the commercial fishing industry would suffer a social injustice as a result. 
It seems my response was acceptable because the council hired me and I served on the 
staff for four years. 

The ideal of objectivity is a difficult one to achieve and some have raised the 
question as to whether it is achievable at all (Bernard 1988). Yet, striving to be as 
objective as possible may be all we can do. However, presenting all sides of an issue like 
the net ban is almost impossible. Therefore, presenting a subjective look of one 
perspective while recognizing other views is what I have attempted. All in all, I believe 
my stance against the net ban was a subjective one and not one of bias. 

I have tried to present these people and their community in a fair and unbiased 
fashion, yet my own ties to the community places me in a position that makes it difficult 
to be critical. In the end, I hope that I have been able to provide a piece of research that 
may be subjective in its approach, but provides a viewpoint that otherwise would not be 


heard. As an anthropologist, I believe it is critical to our discipline to be able to provide 
these subjective looks at a culture and offer them for critique. We may then decide the 
validity of the view presented, but most importantly, we offer a forum for those voices 
that we do not always hear. 



In his essay, "Land and Word: American Pastoral," William Howarth (1995) 
describes a common theme of pastoralism in American literature in which many writers 
describe a peaceful and comforting countryside and long for a less complicated rural way 
of life. He further conveys the contradiction that is often found between embracing 
modernity and holding to this ideal of a simpler rural existence. He points out that 
Americans, throughout their history, have held onto the myth of an agrarian lifestyle. 
Yet, by rapidly modifying the landscape through migration, urban growth, and 
technological change, Americans have transformed their land into something other than 
the pastoral paradise so commonly coveted in the literature. Nonetheless, the sense that 
America is "Nature's nation" continues today with an increasing number of those who 
identify with the environment, the landscape, and long for that simpler rural life. A rural 
life that purportedly offers serenity and calm, in sharp contrast to the more common 
hectic urban existence lived by the majority of Americans. 

This longing for a "place" and the surrounding landscape is understandable 
considering that as one grows up in a particular geographical locale one becomes familiar 
with the place names and stories about those who came before. Those names and stories 
later become the legend, the myth, the history and part of the memory of that "place." 
The idea that we have a "place" within the landscape with which we identify, provides a 
certain security that we belong somewhere. Longing for that place is often a longing for 



the past; a past that might seem a simpler more pleasant life, in light of the fact that most 
of us have chosen a more itinerant lifestyle in a decidedly less rural environment. 

The idea that we can attribute a "sense of community" to a specific geographical 
locale and pattern of settlement has been an enduring viewpoint within the social 
sciences. Redfield's (1947) "folk society" and Wirth's (1938) "urbanism as a way of 
life" are early examples that have generated considerable debate over attributing life-style 
characteristics to a rural or urban way of life (Summers and Branch 1984). These early 
attempts to determine how people live by where they live have been challenged as the 
rural-urban continuum has become much less distinct and a "sense of community" can be 
found at both ends of the continuum. However, Summers and Branch do point out that 
"territorially bounded populations do manifest measurably different life-styles" which are 
important with regard to how they adapt to change ( 1 984: 1 58). 

Anna Marii 

s 4^- 


\ ~2 



Figure 2-1. Cortez, Florida and Surrounding Communities. 


Cortez survives in that transitional place where urban and rural have assimilated 
and where sea meets land. The spread of fast developing growth from Bradenton is 
obscuring the division that once separated Cortez from the rest of the metropolitan area 
(Figure 2-1). The many strip malls and businesses along Cortez Road are an indication of 
the growing reality that few beachgoers today are aware that the road they travel is 
named after the fishing village that was formerly the destination. 

The community of Cortez, like so many others that were first settled in a frontier 
environment, still conveys the ideal of a simpler rural lifestyle; a lifestyle that seems in 
direct contrast to the urban sprawl and coastal change that is largely fueled by tourism 
development along Florida's coasts. That same rural ideal has shaped the identity of this 
community and many of its longtime residents, an identity that is often as contradictory 
as is the belief in a rural lifestyle that may no longer exist. 

Important questions emerge from Howarth's (1995) essay concerning the 
contradiction of seeking a pastoral life and the reality of a rapidly changing and, more 
often than not, urban life. Questions such as: What is community today and how does it 
compare to community of the past? If the rich are searching for a pastoral lifestyle, what 
happens when they find it, or try to recreate it, in areas populated by those who have 
traditionally resided in rural areas and are not rich? What happens when these two 
different groups come together and how do these differing perspectives of a pastoral life 
contribute to the potential for conflict? 

These questions are important because the definition of rural has changed. It has 
been defined, for some time, in contrast to what it is not-urban. The dividing line 
between what is rural and what is urban has become much less clear as they become less 


geographically discrete. Furthermore, the concept of community has changed and the 
traditional view of a small, close-knit, cohesive community with shared values may not 
be as pervasive as it once was. Finally, the life-style associated with such communities 
has also changed as those in rural areas engage in similar consumption patterns as the 
larger society regarding dress, leisure, eating and shopping habits (Fitchen 1991). 

Many issues permeate and surround the question of what defines a community 
today, especially in Florida and especially for coastal communities. They include 
tourism, political economy and ecology, social justice, cultural resistance and identity. I 
attempt to tie these themes together by emphasizing the relationship among these 
different topics and their connectedness. Because each topical areas has an abundance of 
its own theoretical literature, I have chosen material to reflect that which is most relevant 
to the task of blending these different themes in the context of what has taken place in 
Cortez. I begin with a discussion of what "community" means and the recent debate that 
has surrounded the changing notion of the term. 

What is Community? 

The question "What is Community?" is important since it could be argued that the 
Cortez of today is not a community in the traditional sense. Some might say that it has 
become incorporated within the Bradenton-Sarasota metropolitan area; as its own 
political unit, it does not exist. It is not an incorporated municipality and its governance 
falls under county jurisdiction and decisions concerning zoning and essential services are 
determined by the Manatee County Commission. Although it is defined as a Census 
Designated Place, its population of over 4,000 includes many individuals that the 
majority of Cortesians would not consider part of their community. Therefore, it seems 


necessary to examine how community is defined and under what circumstances does 
Cortez meet the criteria of community. 

The term community has become ubiquitous throughout not only the social science 
literature, but also throughout that of the natural sciences (Lumpen Society 1997). With 
such common usage, a widely accepted definition of the term would seem likely. 
However, a debate such as that over the virtues of a liberal concept of community versus 
the communitarian concept attest to the numerous variations in defining community, as 
well as, the moral assumptions that may come with the use of any individual definition 
(Etzioni 1996; Silk 1999; Smith 1999; Tisdell 1997). The debate is important because it 
underlines pivotal assumptions about how community might be defined and how 
individuals view and construct their community. The communitarian community is a 
geographical place in which individuals have close ties and daily face-to-face interaction. 
The liberal community, on the other hand, is not necessarily confined to a specific locale 
and interaction between members can take place over the internet. In addition, the debate 
brings into question how attached people are to a geographic locale in today's society, 
given the increased mobility that has come with advances in transportation and increasing 
prosperity with the global economy. 

Today's job seekers, retirees, and others are more than willing to give up their natal 
homes and seek community elsewhere. In doing so, they give up a certain security or 
familiarity that comes with their traditional residence. On the other hand, they may 
welcome a new and different social network, especially if they felt constrained or 
oppressed by the old. In any case, new social networks and relationships must be formed 
when establishing community in another locale. Community attachment is no longer a 


product of long associations with extended kin and friends spread over a familiar 
geographic area, but formed with others who have similar interests and are recent 
acquaintances in an unfamiliar landscape. These new communities of association and 
choice championed by the liberal theorists have transformed the backdrop of community 
research and fuel an ongoing debate over the future state of community (Brint 2001). 

The idea that community is in decline seems to be a widely held belief and is the 
impetus for the continued debate over its constitution. The decline is most often ascribed 
to what might be called the "traditional" form of community, or community of place. 
The recent discussion between the communitarian and liberal theorists focuses on the 
impact of increasing individual rights and its effect upon society and community over the 
past several decades. As stated earlier, for communitarians, community is more place- 
based and family oriented, dependent upon the face-to-face interaction on a daily basis. 
For liberal theorists, community can be formed by individuals seeking "communities of 
choice," which are not necessarily place-based and may include virtual communities, or 
those that are based on association rather than face-to-face interaction (Silk 1999; Smith 
1999). In general, communitarians tend to reinforce boundaries around communities, 
while the liberal theorist supports the free movement in and out of community 

Etzioni (1996) claims that increased emphasis upon individual rights has slowly 
eroded the basis for community allowing for less accountability by individuals toward 
society and the common good. Some have pointed out the moral assumptions imbedded 
within the communitarian argument, that community in and of itself has a beneficial 
moral quality in any state (Smith, D.M. 1999; Tisdell 1997). That moral quality is 


subject to dispute as liberal theorists point to historical forms of oppression within 
traditional communities (Silk 1999; Smith, D.M. 1999). Without increased individual 
rights, communities could and have maintained structural inequalities and oppressive 
policies toward minorities and others (Smith, D.M. 1999). Finally, Bellah et al. (1985) 
summarize well the conflict within American society with its strong sense of 
individualism and the ongoing struggle with a sense of commitment to the larger society, 
the dialectic of private and public life. 

Champlin (1997) maintains that there has been a long history of the idea that the 
liberal view of community fits well into laissez faire economics. The liberal ideal seems 
to conclude that the best way to restore community is for individuals working in then- 
own interests to produce the "most efficient and prosperous economy. . .the most civil and 
coherent community" (Champlin 1997:575). Champlin contends that the liberal view is 
flawed and cannot restore community. He emphasizes the need to form a common 
ground and unity within community, traits which the liberal ideal cannot attain as it 
divides rather than unifies with its emphasis on the individual and volunteerism 
(Champlin 1997). 

Although there is validity to both arguments the debate has prompted some to steer 
away from either view of community in order to resolve the impasse. The argument over 
what is community has been criticized for focusing on too narrow a debate over a non- 
existent idyllic form and/or the deconstruction of that form (Lumpen Society 1997). 
Furthermore, recent calls to restore community seem flawed as long as there is an attempt 
to recreate that idyllic form which no longer exists. It is maintained that community is 
process: community is art and citizens are artists or the vice versa, both dependent upon 


one another. What evolves is an ever-changing expression of community (Lumpen 
Society 1997). 

Whatever the form or expression of community, important distinctions are made 
between the two ends of the continuum. Although they may share many characteristics, 
communities of association do not have the close attachment to a geographical locale nor 
the intimate knowledge of the landscape that comes from the long-term association found 
in traditional place-based communities. Those who live in communities of association 
may place their loyalties elsewhere, like their natal homes to which they still feel some 
sentimental ties. Their commitment to their new settlement may be solely to protect a 
monetary investment, rather than a heritage. Traditional place-based communities, on the 
other hand, do not allow easy movement across boundaries and can be stifling by 
requiring conformity to an arcane way of life or mores associated with it. 

When Wilkinson (1991) reviewed community definitions he found three critical 
elements that were common in most "conventional" definitions: a) a locality, or where 
people live and meet their daily needs; b) a local society, that emerges where people 
strive to meet common needs and express common interests; and c) a process of locality- 
oriented collective actions that is a mechanism to express mutual interests in the local 
society that are not driven by self-interest, but rather are for the good of the local society. 
Wilkinson sees locality as extremely important for a definition of community, especially 
when considering rural communities. He emphasizes the importance of locality in 
providing a place for social interaction that builds identity and meaning for individuals 
over time. However, it is the interactions that define that territory, not the reverse 
(Wilkinson 1991). 


Territory is important for most communities, but for communities like Cortez that 
are dependent upon natural resources it has particular importance. Fishing communities 
are especially tied to their locality because of the safe harbor often afforded the fleet and 
its proximity to the resource. There is also a certain awareness of the landscape and 
seascape that become a necessary part of traditional knowledge of local fishermen. That 
knowledge, passed down from generation to generation becomes linked to other facets of 
community that also play an important role in its definition. There is a legacy that ties 
together both the local geography and occupational tradition (Flora et al. 1992). 

In a broader examination of the symbols of community, Goudy's (1990) study of 
community attachment of fairly homogeneous regions showed substantial difference in 
community attachment that was strongly related to length of residence, age and income. 
Surprisingly, population size and density were weakly correlated to community 
attachment (Goudy 1990). Brown (1993) discovered that community satisfaction and 
attachment are not strongly related to local economic or demographic characteristics. In 
his study of two rural Missouri communities, he found that participation in the larger 
consumer economy has lessened the importance of in-shopping, local employment and 
other variables previously thought to be important to community attachment and 
satisfaction. In fact, those who work outside the study communities were the most 
satisfied. These findings, along with others (Pinkerton et al. 1995), suggest a greater than 
ever impact on rural communities with regard to participation in a consumer economy 
and the changing functions within the local community. Further research and 
development efforts may need to focus the changing role of place as a positive 


community experience and change in certain functions of social life within rural 
communities (Brown 1993). 

It is this attachment to place that becomes essential for defining community for Hay 
(1998). Examining residents' rooted sense of place, Hay sees a changing perception of 
community that is tied directly to modernization and an increasingly mobile society. For 
community to survive, that rooted sense of place needs to be restored to allow for the 
necessary moral and ethical relationships to develop between sustainable communities 
and their resources (Hay 1998). 

Piatt (1991) goes further to emphasize the important role that place has for identity 
formation, even for those who have left their natal homes. While she suggests that 
community is no longer defined only by residence, "place becomes both a portable and 
necessary symbol of identity for those who leave and a valuable form of symbolic capital 
for those who stay" ( 1 99 1 : 1 06). 

Attachment to place is certainly an important part of any "sense of community." 
However, it seems evident that certain behavior that once was considered part of that 
attachment like shopping or working within the community, may no longer need to be 
considered requisite. Yet, for the "sense of community" to survive it seems obvious that 
residents must exhibit some attachment to place through other symbolic behaviors to 
establish those moral and ethical relationships to which Hay (1998) refers. 

This is significant with regard to natural resource communities and fishing 
communities like Cortez. There is a strong feeling of sense of place in Cortez and tied to 
that are important moral and ethical relationships. Those morals and ethics are rooted in 
a more traditional and somewhat rural culture; one that stresses hard work, strong ties to 


extended family and a deep-seated belief in the ability of God or Mother Nature to take 
care of herself thereby providing the necessary balance between fish and fisherman for a 
sustainable stock. 

The urban-rural continuum is important to consider because Cortez is perceived by 
residents to be rural in its character. Although a blurring of the line between the rural- 
urban continuum was mentioned previously, Bell (1992) has found that it is still a viable 
concept and provides an important source for identity for those living in the country. 
Furthermore, Bradshaw (1993) sees the rural-urban continuum as having significant 
importance for the rural development paradigm as the global economy redefines cities 
and creates rural regions. He emphasizes the need to form multi-jurisdictional networks 
where several rural communities may work together to solve problems that could not be 
resolved alone (Bradshaw 1993). 

The continued growth of urban areas has had significant impact upon rural 
communities. Previous assumptions about many characteristics of rural communities 
have changed as behaviors, attitudes and perceptions of those living in rural communities 
are also transformed with a global economy and an ever-changing landscape. This has 
important implications for rural development as mentioned previously. Wilkinson (1986) 
sees rurality as an important challenge to community development in that preserving a 
community's rurality should be paramount. 

Overall, the above literature suggests a changing form and perception of 
community that finds traditional place-based communities struggling to survive. The 
debate over the communitarian and liberal theories of community focuses upon an 
important difference between the two forms that is germane to Cortez and it 


surroundings. Cortez is very much a place-based and traditional community with a 
decidedly rural character. It is increasingly surrounded, however, by communities of 
choice and association, of urban character, which include both retirement and destination 

Wilkinson's (1991) community is an ecological community that is place-based and 
is compatible with most definitions of natural resource dependent communities, like 
Cortez. It does not necessarily contrast with communities of choice, but feelings of 
attachment to communities of choice are derived from an entirely different process. The 
key here is the important link to the environment that is found with communities that are 
dependent upon natural resources and how that link is tied to a sense of community and 
attachment to place. These communities are place-based and also have long histories of 
resource extraction creating a legacy that influences the identity and social life of its 

Natural Resource-Dependent Communities 

With the exception of modern planned communities, most communities were 
dependent upon natural resources early in their development. In the United States the 
industrial revolution brought about a rather marked change as urban areas grew and 
became more focused upon manufacturing and servicing markets leaving fewer 
communities directly dependent upon extraction of natural resources. Nevertheless, there 
are many that continue to depend upon agriculture, forestry, mining and fishing. 

Natural resource-dependent communities are typified by large fluctuations in 
economic prosperity. This is partially due to the fact that the availability of the resource 
itself is naturally cyclical, especially for fishing communities. These may be seasonal 
variations in resource availability or may be longer-term fluctuations due to 


environmental or man-made calamity. In either case, the community must endure the 
absence of important economic resources as a result. These fluctuations of prosperity 
among natural resource dependent communities have often generated high rates of 
poverty, which tend to confine residents, in that the lack of resources offers few options 
for leaving (Freudenburg and Gramling 1994; Nord 1994; Peluso et al. 1994). Krannich 
and Zollinger (1997) created a typology of resource-dependent areas based upon 
observed patterns of resource-based economic activity. The four typologies: sustained, 
cyclical, transitional, and declining, exhibit the multifaceted nature of resource dependent 
areas and important differences in the development potential for each type (Krannich and 
Zollinger, 1997). In their study of seven resource-dependent communities, Force et al. 
(2000) found that it was broad societal trends followed by local historical events that 
explained most of the variation in dimensions of community social change such as size 
and structure. Overall, local resource production explained little when combined with 
other "engines of change." 

Gale (1991) also developed a classification scheme to sort out the various types of 
resource dependent coastal communities and to understand the impacts of the "growth 
machine." The classification, Natural Resource Manufacturing and Administration (NR- 
MAN) coastal community, in which the economic base revolves around the exploitation 
of water-based natural resources is an apt description of the category of coastal 
community that Cortez would exemplify. Especially noteworthy to Gale's discussion is 
the impact of "gentrification" as when a "second-generation growth machine" appears 
within coastal communities. Often made up of nonlocals and having stronger links to 
external capital markets, this new growth machine tends to disrupt the old power 


structure and displaces established, less powerful residents. This coastal gentrification is 
typical along the United States coast and has the potential to transform a NR-MAN 
community's dependence to an entirely different resource base, thereby displacing 
commercial fishermen. 

Dyer et al. (1992) define a natural resource community as one where there is "a 
population of individuals living within a bounded area whose primary cultural existence 
is based upon the utilization of renewable natural resources." These communities have a 
necessary link between biological cycles within the physical environment and socio- 
economic interactions within the community. Important social activities or events may 
be tied to the migration patterns or seasonal harvest of resources. 

Initially, there was a bias toward land-based investigations into communities and 
natural resources (Harris and Vanderpool 1992). But that changed as more and more 
people became interested in the environment and began looking at the ocean and its 
watery resources as an important part of the ecology of the planet. For fishermen in 
particular, adaptation to working on the water has important implications (Acheson 1981; 
Norr and Norr 1978). Long periods of time away from home and working on an unstable 
platform are two aspects of fishing that differ from most land-based occupations. 
Furthermore, there are the necessary support activities that take place on land to support 
the activity on the water. The important ties to the physical environment dictate 
occupational participation, structures community interaction and define social values for 
those living in natural resource communities. Unlike other communities, like 
communities of association, social life within most natural resource communities is more 


determined by cycles of resource availability. Furthermore, it is difficult to plan when so 
much depends upon an unpredictable resource. 

In contrast to other studies that focus on the occupational culture of fishing, Smith 
and Hanna (1993) examine how community factors can differentiate behavior of 
fishermen. Their study of the West Coast trawl fishery in Oregon analyzed community as 
a determinant of cultural behavior and found that face-to-face interactions characteristic 
of community life facilitated the transfer of ideas which then influenced patterns of trawl 
fishing (Smith and Hanna 1993). The idea that individual fishing communities develop 
distinct cultural characteristics is an important finding that demonstrates there can be 
considerable variation among specialized natural resource communities. 

Chekki (1997) notes that as a result of the impact that globalization of the economy 
has had on both community and the environment there is a need for increased community 
empowerment to ensure sustainable development. With the fast pace of globalization 
there has been widespread destruction of the environment which disrupts communities 
dependent upon natural resources. Often affected by multi-national corporations seeking 
commodities for export, Chekki (1997) suggests that one answer to both resource and 
community sustainability may be the empowerment of communities through grassroots 
organization. In its fight to remain a sustainable community with its own identity, Cortez 
has organized several grassroots efforts to survive and sustain a particular way of life. 

There has been considerable thought given to the idea of "sustainable 
communities." In that regard, it has been implied that only specific types of behavior 
within a cornmunity or group of individuals, e.g., cooperation, may provide the 
sustainability needed for survival of a community (Stark 1998). Furthermore, some have 


suggested that communities can and may have lost their ability to cooperate that enables 
them to function in a sustainable manner. Losing that ability to cooperate can negate the 
benefits from development initiatives; consequently, making such communities the target 
of redevelopment efforts may be unwise (Mulkey et al. 1993). However, understanding 
how communities have lost the capacity to cooperate may require a broader analysis of 
how such changes fit into the larger global economy and world political structure (Prattis 

Finally, the idea that communities can begin a decline that could eventually end in 
the death of a community is also a possibility (Gallaher and Padfield 1980). Many small 
isolated rural communities have faced substantial changes in the advance of urbanization, 
industrialization and bureaucratization. These challenges of modernity which bring 
changes in technology, transportation and communication have important implications 
for communities like Cortez where most change has been controlled from within. But, 
with increasing frequency, it is outsiders who begin to introduce and control the change. 
Over time, the processes commonly used by locals begin to weaken and community 
members begin to shift their loyalty from the specific locale and begin to focus on a 
larger frame of reference (Gallaher and Padfield 1980:4). Additionally, as Clawson 
(1980) points out, changes in the natural resource base will have long-lasting impacts 
upon those communities dependent upon them. Whether natural resource dependent 
communities are capable of making the transition to another economic base is always 
uncertain as evidenced by Overbey's (1982) study of a coastal Georgia community and 
the development of a naval base. 


Cortez, like so many other commercial fishing villages in Florida, struggles to 
maintain its working commercial waterfront amidst growing tourism development and 
increasingly strict management of the natural resource base. It may no longer be a viable 
fishing community, at least in the same sense that so many of its longtime residents 
perceive it to be. 

Tradition and Identity 

As discussed earlier, the fishermen of Cortez have struggled with an unflattering 
perception by others and have questioned their own identity as a result of that scrutiny. 
Their image of themselves is steeped in the legendary independence often associated with 
cowboys (Agar 1986) and heroes who settle on the margins of society (Bellah et al. 
1985). That image fits nicely with the recurring theme of independence in American lore 
summarized by Bellah et al.: 

A deep and continuing theme in American literature is the hero who must leave 
society, alone or with one or a few others, in order to realize the moral good in the 
wilderness, at sea or on the margins of settled society (Bellah et al. 1985: 144). 

Nevertheless, this is not the image that most Floridians have of fishermen, or their 

communities. The growing population along Florida's coasts has brought significant 

development and a rapidly changing landscape. Such rapid change often weakens or 

eliminates the social patterns established from the old "traditions," and new traditions 

appear (Hobsbawm 1983). While commercial fishing of modern day Cortesians hardly 

resembles the commercial fishing of their forefathers, they still claim this heritage and 

tradition. And as the community has changed dramatically over the years it certainly 

bears little resemblance to the isolated community of the past. Yet, Cortesians cling to 

that past and attempt to recreate the social gatherings that were an integral part of their 

childhood and institutionalize them by holding a recurring "Native's Picnic" and "fish 


fiys" every year. These references to the past are important as the repetitive tradition 
becomes an important event symbolizing social cohesion and membership in a 
community. Furthermore, although these invented traditions may not genuinely reflect 
the past, their purpose may have a political purpose and will often appear at times when 
there is social disruption and social ties are weak (Hobsbawm 1983). 

Identity becomes a symbol that is offered in many ways to explain who and what 
Cortez embodies. The symbols are gatherings like the native's picnic or the fish frys 
where community members come together to share food and music. Cortez is a fishing 
community that becomes symbolized through the common food that is shared which was 
most often mullet. Part of that identity is also the close kinship ties that become 
expressed through family gatherings but also through recounting the history of the village 
and its settlement by five families from North Carolina, both through oral tradition and 
documented history. However, although these symbols are generally agreed upon, some 
may find discrepancies within the recounting of history or its documentation. And while 
solidarity is an important aspect of sharing an identity, there often remains some discord 
within the group. 

Li (1996) examined the different images of community that became apparent 
through the struggle over resources. It is often through the exercise of 'practical political 
economy' that these different images are contrasted within the larger society. The image 
of community as consensus and sustainability is often successfully used by those who 
advocate 'community based resource management' (Li 1996:503). But it is also the case 
that some definitions of community can misrepresent current natural resource use 
systems and exclude those who may need access the most (Li 1996). The changing 


image of community is at the heart of Tauxe's (1998) examination of small town identity. 
It seems that earlier images of community promoted by the local Chambers of Commerce 
included ideals of solidarity and local identity. Economic restructuring due to a changing 
economy brought a new emphasis upon a more nationally recognized myth of rural life 
and the connection between local and national levels of production (Tauxe 1998). Such a 
shift away from local identity is important, as residents must then reassess their own 
identity. Such was the case described by LiPuma (1992) as Galician fishermen resisted 
joining the European Community. Through their resistance they were able to modify the 
transition to a fully rationalized fishery and its institutions of management while 
maintaining some remnants of their previous social identity. 

Fitzgerald (1993) illustrates the important role of the culture-communication 
dialogue in forming and maintaining identities. Through the use of metaphor, identity 
becomes an image of self-within-context. As context changes, so does the image and 
eventually identity. Moving from one context to another it becomes necessary to project 
that image for others to comprehend. Therefore the ability to communicate an image one 
wishes to maintain becomes essential. When there is ambivalence about one's identity 
others may impose their image of self-in-context. Therefore, the media as a primary 
source of communication becomes increasingly important in shaping these images. 

For the fishermen and their families of Cortez, the image of hard-working, self- 
sufficient, independent people was not the image that most Floridians would recognize. 
In fact, as suggested in earlier research, fishing folk in Florida were not perceived as 
being the independent and positive image of cowboy, but that of outlaw, which in turn, 
prompted fishing families to begin using the metaphor of Indians from the Wild West, 


suggesting they were being pushed off their native lands into reservations surrounded by 
foreigners (Smith and Jepson 1993). 

Tourism: its Promise and its Presence 

Tourism has evolved into one of the most profound agents of global change since 
the last world war. Today, tourists can travel to any corner of the globe and observe any 
landscape and/or people with relatively few inconveniences. The tourism industry has 
become an "amicable" conqueror with its almost troop-like movement of people around 
the earth and destinations that resemble luxurious enclosures surrounded by privation. 
There is a fervor with which tourism has been pursued to redress the economic woes of 
the world. The promise of economic redevelopment by increasing the tourist dollar has 
been a common proposition with varied results. What has been surprising is that, at 
times, it has been perceived as having benign impacts, even though it often encompasses 
tremendous growth and holds potential for considerable change. 

Only within the last three decades have social scientists begun to seriously examine 
tourism and its varied impacts. Some concentrated on the beneficial impacts that tourism 
brought to the hosts and guests (Rothman 1978; Milman and Pizam 1988), but others 
examined the sometimes hidden liabilities of rapid growth and large scale development 
that tourism can bring about (Greenwood 1972; McGoodwin 1986). 

Tourism has received mixed reviews from social scientists that have often been 
critical of constant growth and development at the expense of those who endure at the 
lower levels of the social stratum (Crick 1989; Nash 1989). However, others have used a 
more holistic approach that offers a comprehensive view of this phenomenon called 


What is Tourism? 

Jonathon Urry (1990) contends that the purpose of tourism is to gaze upon or view 
a different landscape, townscape, or way of life (culture). He states that each touristic 
view presupposes its opposite and is organized in such a manner as to separate work and 
leisure. The tourist, of course wants to be as far away as possible from work. Boorstin 
(1964) calls it a 'pseudo event' created for the tourist who is encapsulated in an 
environmental bubble which shelters them from the real world; again, that real world 
which may include work. MacCannell (1973) sees all tourists as being on a quest for 
authenticity and what they find is "staged authenticity." This develops not from an 
individuated search for authenticity, but by the social relations that evolve between the 
tourist and the observed. Crick (1989) argues that all culture is staged. There seems to 
be in all forms of tourism some negotiation between what is real and what is not. Part of 
the lure is to "get away from it all." 

Urry (1990) suggests that the places gazed upon often contrast with paid organized 
work. Tourism offers an out of the ordinary element with professionals who create and 
arrange an ever-changing hierarchy of objects to be gazed upon. Tourists wish to view an 
illusion of paradise, one that fits their own conception. Although, MacCannell sees some 
fascination with other's workplaces as tourist attraction and refers to it as 'alienated 
leisure' (1976). 

For Graburn (1989) tourism is a transition from Durkheim's Sacred to the profane - 
the sacred being the non-ordinary experience or tourism. The movement from the realm 
of the profane work-a-day world to the sacred non-ordinary world is filled with feelings 
of excitement and ambivalence. The basic motivation for tourism according to Graburn 
is re-creation. 


Tourism has increasingly become important to those who live in industrialized 
nations. The Protestant work ethic is no longer the accepted value norm. Vacations are 
an expected annual ritual that can be analyzed as such (Graburn 1989). Tourism depends, 
in a large part, upon the existence of leisure time and discretionary income and positive 
local sanctions. With the advent of large scale tourism there also may transpire a transfer 
of control from the local level to the federal or international level that resembles a form 
of imperialism when control is taken over by outsiders (Nash 1989). 

The above review raises important concerns for communities like Cortez, which are 
surrounded by tourism. Tourism by its very nature has a tendency to transform those that 
become gazed upon. Those with sufficient leisure and discretionary income encourage 
newer and more exciting views upon which to gaze. The tourism professional then seeks 
these new, out of the ordinary, experiences and markets them to the tourist. In the 
process, commercial fishermen, who may or may not be out of the ordinary, must be 
sanitized to fit with the expectations of those of a different social class and geographical 
locale. For fishing communities to take advantage of the economic prosperity that 
tourism often promises, is to put themselves at great risk of being transformed 

Rural communities have frequently suffered dramatic changes in character never 
mentioned in the promised economic windfall from tourism development. Increased 
employment opportunities have frequently been low-paying service sector jobs which 
contribute to the marginalizing of those who choose to remain in these often isolated 
communities. Rising property values and taxes resulting from structural changes in the 
economic base have serious impacts on traditional inhabitants of rural villages and towns 


(Greenwood 1972; Smith and Jepson 1993). Outsiders from different geographical 
regions and socioeconomic class are often able to acquire coastal property because local 
residents are unable to afford the higher costs of living associated with tourism 
development (Oliver-Smith et al.1989). 

Rural coastal communities have been especially vulnerable to this "growth 
machine" and process of gentrification. Because they live primarily on the coast, 
commercial fishermen and their property have been frequent targets in the battle for 
control over waterfront property. Because they often do not have the resources or skills 
necessary to challenge their opponents, commercial fishermen often lose their battles to 
maintain the continuity of their community or occupation (Gale 1991; Meltzoff 1989). 
Furthermore, as documented by Kitner (1996) the promised economic windfall from 
tourism does not always trickle down to those in the lower classes, like fishermen. In 
fact, tourism development on Isla Margarita created new dichotomies of development 
between the new and old, urban and rural and the rich and poor (Kitner 1996). 

As elsewhere, the constant growth in tourism development along Florida's coast 
over the past several decades has displaced commercial fishermen and their families from 
their traditional communities. Because their numbers have been decreasing, they often 
lose their voice in local governance and fisheries management which now threatens to 
dislodge commercial fishermen from their customary place on the water (Smith and 
Jepson 1993). 

The Political: Economy and Ecology. 

By its very nature ethnography places the anthropologist within a very small and 
confined social system. Describing that system in detail can often de-emphasize the role 
of the larger economy and history and their impact upon local life. Placing local subjects 


within the context of a world economy and the development of capitalism is the essence 
of the political economy approach within anthropology (Roseberry 1988). This is not 
intended to oversimplify the scope of political economy, but more to emphasize the point 
that the fishermen and residents of Cortez do participate and enjoy many of the products 
of the larger capitalist economy within which they live. In turn, that same economy and 
historical circumstance have played a role in their current situation. 

From the beginning, anthropologists working within the political economy 
framework have been concerned with the role of class, capitalism and power and then- 
effect upon local life. Also important has been the relationship to the means of 
production (Roseberry 1988). The importance for fishermen, worldwide, has been a very 
tenuous relationship to their means of production. Fishermen do not own land and 
therefore have little control over access to the resource upon which they depend. 
Fishermen may own their boat and fishing gear, but access to the resource is often 
regulated by a complex set of laws that are in large part established by others; others who 
are often of a different socio-economic class and status. This has created a rather 
complicated relationship regarding control and ownership over the resource that becomes 
coupled to class and power relationships, both within their own community and the larger 
society, if not globally. This has been reflected in the study of common property 
resources and the resulting dialogue on the true nature of fishermen's relationship to then- 
resource and a reexamination of Hardin's (1968) famous essay on the problem with 
common property (McCay and Acheson 1987). 

The work in political economy was naturally similar to much of that emerging out 
of environmental anthropology and eventually political ecology. Political ecology 


examines those structural relations of power with regard to access and domination of 
natural resources (Scoones 1999). The term was first introduced by Wolf (1972) and has 
since grown rapidly into a promising area of research of its own. However, some have 
questioned whether or not many political ecologists have truly integrated the environment 
into their research, focusing primarily on the political and ignoring the ecological (Vayda 
and Walters 1999). Because the topics are so similar and they are so often intertwined, it 
is difficult to distinguish the economically political from the ecologically political. 
Nevertheless, work in both areas is important because class and power struggles are 
always closely tied to access to and management of natural resources, including the 
politics of place (Little 1999; Keith and Pile 1993). 

Exploring some of the aforementioned similarities in approach, Ciccantell (1999) 
combines both political economy and ecology to examine the consequences for rural 
communities in the Brazilian Amazon when natural resources are defined in such manner 
as to place those communities in competition with the national government and its 
intention to exploit those resources through a global economy. When such a redefinition 
of resources occurs, those in power repeatedly overlook the regional definitions, which 
are often closely tied to communities and their access and use of resources. When rivers 
were to have electro-hydraulic dams put in place the government was imposing 
definitions of those resources that were more compatible with the powerful and 
sometimes foreign competitors. 

McGoodwin (1986) and McGuire (1983) have both examined the Mexican shrimp 
fishery and find that world export markets have had significant impacts upon the rural 
populace and generate conflict among the local users of the resource. Bailey et al. (1986) 


has found that fisheries development is also driven by policy that favors urban elites and 
is fashioned by national and international agencies. In Florida, some have pointed to the 
important context of power relations between fishermen and the growth machine behind 
tourism and a large global market (Johnson and Orbach 1990; Meltzoff 1989). Tourism 
and global marketing of fisheries resources have both influenced fishermen's ability to 
remain in their natal homes and to continue to remain in their occupation. 

Cortez fishermen find themselves embroiled in struggles that encompass the global 
market for mullet roe and other seafood, plus the power and politics of fishery 
management at several levels of government. They resist the definition of fishery 
resources as being more important economically if used by the recreational sector that is 
gaining favor with some sportsmen and managers (Farren 1994). Their community is 
under pressure from a tourism growth machine that places more emphasis upon 
recreation than work. The ensuing power and political struggles are at all levels of 
government and require them to become adept at challenging these new definitions of the 

The Culture of Resistance 

The idea of resistance has not been closely associated with fishermen and their 
struggles to survive. Although, it is often mentioned in terms of their disdain for 
regulatory procedure, the nature of resistance has not been fully explored. Much of the 
discussion for resistance has centered on rebellion and indigenous or peasant movements. 
However, these discussions are relevant to resistance by fishermen and their 

Although present day fishermen of Cortez are not peasants by any means, it was 
George Zarur's (1975) dissertation on the seafood gatherers of Mullet Springs that may 


have first pointed to the similarities between these fishermen of Florida and peasants 
elsewhere around the world (Zarur 1975). Scott (1985) pointed out that peasant rebellion 
is seldom the large-scale insurrection that topples an unjust state. After all, the 
subordinate classes rarely have the opportunity for well organized political opposition 
and therefore resort to a much more subtle type of rebellion. He points to "everyday 
forms of resistance" as being the preferred tool of peasants who struggle against those 
who wish to "extract labor, food, taxes and rent from them." This type of "low-profile" 
resistance consists of non-compliance, foot-dragging, evasion, or deception that takes 
little organization, yet collectively can make a shambles of policies designed and 
implemented by their antagonists. Best suited for the social structure of the peasantry, 
these defensive campaigns of attrition fit well with the lack of formal organization and 
rarely consist of outright confrontation. In fact, most acts of everyday resistance are done 
quietly with little acknowledgment and are more apt to slowly nibble away at policies 
through an extended, guerrilla-style campaign that is reinforced by a popular culture of 
resistance that becomes part of every day life. 

Peasants harbor a "deep sense of injustice" according to Wolf (1969) that has laid 
the groundwork for many revolutions. That sense of injustice can often stem from an 
infringement upon the traditional sentiment of a peasant's "right to subsistence" (Scott 
1976). This infringement happens through some interference with their ability to subsist 
through taxes, laws or access to land. 

The idea of a "moral economy" or "right to subsistence" has also been applied to 
fishermen here in the United States as described in Dyer and Moberg's (1992) discussion 
of the Gulf of Mexico's shrimpers' fight over laws requiring the use of Turtle Excluder 


Devices. They discuss the practices that shrimpers have developed in response to 
mandated use of these devices. Sewing openings shut or dragging nets without TEDs 
were common practices as shrimpers resisted the use of such devices claiming they lost 
shrimp and were too costly. 

McCay (1984) maintains that illegal fishing in New Jersey is cultural and tied to 
historical disputes over property rights and enclosure of the marine commons that 
eventually dispossesses the commoner. It continues with community consensus sustained 
by a myth that state government discriminates against commercial fishermen. But, 
Curcione (1992) has demonstrated that commercial fishermen should not be singled out 
with regard to such activity as recreational fishermen also take part in such deviant 

The idea that poaching is a "folk crime" persists according to Muth (1998) because 
this type of crime tends not to violate public sentiments. Indeed, terminology that 
characterizes those who poach, i.e., outlaw, pirates, bandits, has a somewhat more benign 
meaning than terms like criminal and violator (Muth 1998:5). Theft of natural resources 
is on the increase and yet the majority of North Americans seem ambivalent toward this 
criminal activity, in part, because they see these protagonists as marginal to the larger 
society and who possibly depend upon these resources to support their families and 
traditional way of life (Muth and Bowe 1998:9). 

In their research of poaching in Southwest Louisiana, Forsyth, Gramling, and 
Wooddell (1998) see much of the rapid change in Louisiana as changing rural 
populations as postindustrial values, often urban values, gain ascendancy. As values shift 


long-term residents become classified as deviant for the illegal taking of natural resources 
that were once considered legal. 

Furthermore, the response by two Mexican fishing communities to regulations 
imposed by outside interests according to Vasquez (1994) are similarly those of 
avoidance, infringement of areal and seasonal closures, use of illegal gear, etc. She 
concludes that this illegal activity is not merely methodological individualism and profit 
maximization, but more collective action that weighs opportunity. She further suggests 
such behaviors may exist in response to communal pressures and a lack of alternatives 
(Vasquez 1994:78). 

Many of these same behaviors can be found in Cortez. Fishermen regularly test the 
limits of law enforcement by fishing in a manner that is or can be interpreted as being 
illegal. Although it may be illegal, fishermen express a right to access to these resources. 
Fish that were once available to them are now are inaccessible because of new 
regulations which often favor landowners or recreational fishermen. Newly dredged 
canals provide a haven for fish that never existed before and certain species have been 
designated recreational take only by fishery management agencies. These new 
circumstances seem wrong to most commercial fishermen who believe their traditional 
use of these resources should be protected. 

Fishermen from Cortez, like fishermen I have studied elsewhere, often develop 
strategies to elude or challenge law enforcement. While conducting research on the 
Texas Bay shrimpers, on one particular trip that I remember, fishermen were to catch 
shrimp migrating out to sea from inland waters through the Intercoastal canal, in which it 
was illegal to shrimp. That evening when it was dark, shrimpers traveled down the canal 


and lined up to place their nets in the water. They radioed each other to ensure that the 
local marine patrol or Coast Guard were not near. On our boat the net was hauled up 
with its load of shrimp. The captain kept it hanging over the side of the boat so he could 
quickly pull the rope around the codend and dump the contents if the marine patrol 
suddenly appeared. Once at the dock, everyone worked at a fevered pitch to pack the 
shrimp into a truck hidden away before law enforcement could show up. 

Similar stories were often heard in Cortez. Fishermen would delight in telling 
stories of enterprising exploits and close calls with law enforcement. When caught, they 
would often challenge the case in court and frequently win or get by with minimal fines. 
Wildlife law enforcement officials are often frustrated and share the above mentioned 
concern about "folk crimes" as judges are reluctant to prosecute or impose large fines or 
incarcerate fishermen. They view them as working class individuals and are hesitant to 
make criminals out of them for violating resource laws. 

Nevertheless, it does seem that not only in Cortez, but fishing communities overall, 
there does seem to be a pervasive pattern of resistance to restricting access to natural 
resources upon which they depend. Closely tied to that belief are feelings of injustice 
when access is denied or restricted through regulation by fisheries management or other 
regulatory agencies- 
Social Justice 
The emerging environmental justice framework in relation to community and 
environmental risks has received considerable attention from social scientists (Perrole 
1993). Within that body of literature important themes have evolved that are applicable 
to natural resource communities and their struggles for redefinition of their resources 
(Ciccantell 1999). The focus of the social justice and environment literature has been on 


groups who have been unjustly exposed to environmental risks. Little has been written 
concerning social justice in relation to access to natural resources. But, the issues are 
closely tied, as the relations of power and class become inevitable focal points in the 
discussions of both. In addition, the scientific discourse that accompanies those relations 
is also an important focus because there is often a distinct difference in comprehension 
and acceptance of the basic tenets of the underlying science (Durrenberger 1990; Paolisso 

Natural resource dependent communities are often altered through development or 
management changes that may not affect other communities that do not rely upon natural 
resources. This special relationship to the environment is often unrecognized in many 
development and management initiatives and can have dramatic impacts upon these 
communities. Derman and Ferguson (1994) describe the impacts of tourism development 
on a fishing community in Malawi, Africa. When a local hotel with new foreign 
ownership desired to expand its operations, the entire village was evicted with the state's 
approval. No relocation effort was made and most families relocated to an area that 
offered poor access to resources and unhealthy living conditions. This is not a unique 
occurrence and continues as large-scale development triumphs in the struggle with small 
rural communities over access to resources (Derman and Ferguson 1994). Johnston 
(1994) describes the conflict and subsequent impacts of "managed development" in the 
Virgin Islands when islanders find themselves alienated from land and the sea. With the 
strong influence of the North American tourism industry and growing development of the 
coast, the term resource becomes redefined relative to science and management practices 
also brought to the islands from North America (Johnston 1994). 


Theoretical Themes 

As I have mentioned there was no general theoretical perspective that guided my 
research, however, it must be noted that in many respects the principal theoretical theme 
is one of community. Community provides the primary framework for understanding all 
other theoretical perspectives. Arensberg and Kimball (1965) referred to it as the "master 
social system" or major link between culture and community. Whether it still remains as 
that critical link is questionable. Today, with a global economy and communication we 
have become a very mobile society more accustomed to virtual communities with few if 
any ties to any particular geographic location and relationships based upon association 
rather then face to face encounters. It is important to understand that as a natural 
resource community Cortez becomes tied to a geographic locale which has important 
implications as an ecological definition of community. It differs considerably from 
communities surrounding it that are often communities of association where the residents 
come together for recreation, leisure or retirement and do not have as long a history in 
that location. Membership in a community of association is fluid and residents come and 
go as long as they have the financial resources and are willing to abide by certain rules of 
association, in some cases. Residents of Cortez, however, belong to a much more 
structured group that often necessitates a kinship connection with others and possible 
participation in some commercial fishing enterprise. In one sense it is an occupational 
community where face to face encounters with a closely connected group happen daily 
both at work and home. This does not mean that all residents are related or commercial 
fishermen. Being part of the community of Cortez is more than just residing within the 
village and being a fisherman. There is a shared sense of belonging and membership is 


often gauged by willingness to participate in community events, the industry or at least be 
supportive of commercial fishing. 

Community becomes the primary social organization through which collective 
solutions are pursued which in turn ensures survival of the group or community (Gallaher 
and Padfield 1980). So, while Cortez is a geographically anchored place, it is also a 
perceived place of shared belonging for a group of people. As mentioned earlier, that 
group can extend well beyond the boundaries of the geographical location to include 
those who have previously lived in Cortez or are connected through kinship. So, 
membership in the community of Cortez is not necessarily as fluid as communities of 
association, but it includes others who live outside of the geographical boundaries of the 
natural resource dependent community. Yet, to be included one must share a sense of 
belonging that may be tied to an historical association or shared belief in the survival of 
the fishing community. 

The literature on tourism is significant as Florida's economy is closely tied to the 
revenue that is generated from the millions of visitors that come to the state each year, 
especially coastal counties. Tourism development is often pursued to provide economic 
stimulus or, as in the case of Cortez, it may also aid in educating the public. The primary 
goal of the planned maritime center was to provide a forum to present informative 
programs about commercial fishing and the history of the village. This certainly raises 
important question about the relationship between host and guest. Fishermen from 
Cortez often commented that they did not want to feel as though they were museum 
pieces. But as tourists are paraded around the village, one might begin to have that 
notion. Furthermore, as discussed earlier the often anticipated economic benefits may not 


accrue to the fishermen or other villagers. Fishermen want to fish and do not necessarily 
want to be museum workers. Moreover, the necessary skills in managing or working in a 
museum are not the same as those needed to handle a fishing boat and use a net. 
Needless to say, there were many questions concerning the impacts and benefits of such a 

With the maritime center's mission of educating the public as its primary focus, 
presenting an acceptable image of commercial fishing is closely tied to tourism. It 
becomes one medium by which the community presents its self; this is who we are. That 
image will be important in several respects for if the maritime center is to be successful 
the image must be one people are willing to accept and willing to view. The 
appropriateness of that image then becomes coupled to the culture of resistance that has 
helped define this community. The question becomes: can the village advocate resistance 
and still portray an image that the general public will accept? The answer to that question 
becomes even more important as their adversaries in the net ban campaign begin to 
formulate their own image of Cortez and commercial fishermen in general. 

The net ban campaign places this community and commercial fishermen in 
situation that raises significant questions concerning power relations. As commercial and 
recreational fishing interest groups began lobbying public officials and the general 
populace, there were distinct power differentials that became evident. While recreational 
fishing interest groups claimed that the commercial industry had fishery management 
agencies and legislators on their side, it was evident from the beginning that their 
resources were far greater, both monetarily and politically. Furthermore, within the 
management arena commercial fishermen have lost a part of their voice as fisheries 


management has become much more dependent upon complex biological models to 
determine stock status. Whereas, in the past commercial fishermen were often invited to 
give their assessment of stock status based upon their experience on the water, more 
recently their judgment is often considered biased. Commercial fishermen are often from 
a lower socio-economic class with lower average education levels than their counterparts 
in recreational fishing groups and state bureaucratic officials. This places them at a 
distinct disadvantage as they may shy away from public speaking or challenging complex 
bureaucratic rules and regulations. This, in part, explains fishermen's preference for 
resistance on the water; it is a place where their skills match or exceed their adversary's. 
As I have tried to link these various bodies of literature, I think it is clear that each 
of these theoretical areas have some bearing upon the community which is the central 
organizing theme. The image of Cortez and of commercial fishermen overall will be 
important variables in the upcoming challenge to their identity and occupation. The 
extent to which resistance can help or hinder their attempts to survive will be a key to 
their success. As it stands, their chances of survival given potential changes to their 
natural resource base as a result of stock declines or restricted access are dependent upon 
their ability to fashion an acceptable resistance that is reflected in a positive image to the 
general public. On the other hand, if their opponents are successful in redefining both the 
resource and their identity, then the survival of Cortez as a fishing community may be in 


This chapter describes both the physical and social environments that surround the 
community of Cortez, Florida. Included in the description of the physical environment 
are a description of the ecosystem, a discussion of fishing trends for both commercial and 
recreational sectors, and a brief discussion of the regulation of both. The description of 
the social environment includes census data and other demographic characteristics for 
Florida, Manatee County and the community of Cortez. Finally, a discussion of the 
trends found in both environments and some possible implications for the community 
concludes the chapter. 

It is Florida's impressive natural environment that draws so many people to this 
state and in doing so has shaped a social setting with a rich history and challenging 
future. The warm climate, beautiful beaches, abundant fish and wildlife have persuaded 
many a visitor to become a permanent resident, and if not, at least, a permanent seasonal 
visitor. Like so many other parts of the state, the central west coastline has supported 
many ancient populations like the Timucuans, Tocobago, Calusa, and other prehistoric 
groups. This same productive environment is what attracted the Spanish fishermen from 
Havana and the fishermen from North Carolina who eventually settled Cortez. Today, 
the modem day population centers of Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg and Sarasota/Bradenton 
continue to attract migrants who have a decidedly keen interest in those natural resources. 

Cortez is situated on the northern most point of Sarasota Bay (Figure 3-1 ), to the 
west of Bradenton and just south of Tampa/St. Petersburg. Anna Maria Island, just to the 



south of Tampa Bay, with its white sand beaches and blue-green waters acts as a buffer to 
the Gulf of Mexico and provides a safe harbor for Cortez fishermen. In some ways, it is 
ironic that this once pristine natural environment with its abundant resources, which has 
provided the impetus for such rapid growth has created a social environment 


Figure 3-1. Cortez as Located on Florida's Gulf Coast. 

that now may threaten the future sustainability of so many resources and the communities 

that depend upon them. 

The Natural Environment 
Florida's coastline is approximately 1,350 miles in length, longer than the 
coastlines of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas combined. Moreover, it is 
nearly equal to that of all other Atlantic seaboard states. It embodies a diverse array of 
habitats that includes coral reefs, beach rocks and the Gulf Stream. Inland Florida has an 
extensive network of wetlands, freshwater lakes, rivers and streams that supply the 
important habitat and nursery areas found in the brackish salt marshes and mangrove 
swamps along the coast. Over 1 100 species offish live in Florida's aquatic habitats, with 
ten times more marine than freshwater species. These saltwater dwellers depend upon 


the coastal salt marshes, mangrove forests, and sea grass meadows for food, shelter, 
growth and reproduction (Seaman 1985). 

Marshes, mangroves, and swamps are all classified as wetlands. Florida's 
marine/estuarine wetlands consist of three different types: 1) Carolinian - characterized 
by marshes and well-developed barrier islands with small to moderate tidal range; 2) 
West Indian - characterized by low-lying limestone shoreline with calcareous sands and 
marls with a tropical biota which includes coral reefs and mangroves and a small tidal 
range; and 3) Louisiana - similar to Carolinian. Tidal marshes occur over much of 
Florida's coastline and are marked by periodic flooding with salt or brackish water due to 
tidal flow. Tidal marsh makes up approximately 80 to 90 percent of the South Atlantic 
and Gulf coastlines of Florida, making it the largest coastal marsh area in the U.S. These 
areas are important habitat and protected areas for both adult and juvenile fish, birds and 
invertebrates. In addition, the existence of these marsh areas also provides important 
protection to shorelines from erosion and can act to remove excess nutrients from the 
water column (Durako et. al. 1985). 

Almost one third of the state's saltwater marsh area stretches along the Gulf coast 
from Tarpon Springs to Apalachicola. However, the extent and type of saltwater marsh 
south of Tarpon Springs differs from that to the north. Tidal marshes in central west 
Florida, south of Tarpon Springs, are more transitional communities between the 
mangroves and freshwater. Mangroves dominate the wetlands from Tarpon Springs 
south, with black (Avicennia germinans), red (Rhizophora mangle) and white 
(Laguncularia racemosa) mangrove being the most common. Mangrove may be the 
dominant inter-tidal plant community in the state with as much as 272,973 hectares, 


although estimates vary (Durako et al. 1985; Florida Coastal Management Program 
1997). Mangrove forests, like other wetlands areas are critical habitat for many fish and 
other invertebrates. 

Sarasota Bay acquired its modern day shape around 5,000 years ago. It was formed 
by offshore bars migrating upward creating the barrier islands to the West and causing 
the formation of wetlands in the shallower areas. Earlier in the bay's history, when the 
climate was colder, tidal marsh was more prevalent. Because this past century has been 
relatively warm, there has been an increase in mangrove coverage, although more 
recently that coverage has begun to shrink. Sarasota Bay is close to the northern limit for 
mangrove forests in Florida as mangrove is a cold-sensitive tree. Today, Sarasota Bay 
has more than 90 percent of its tidal wetland in mangrove (Estevez 1992). 

Freshwater contributions to Sarasota Bay are minimal and the many passes which 
connect the bay with the influence of the Gulf of Mexico, account for the high salinities 
found in this system (Comp and Seaman 1985). Tampa Bay, to the north of Cortez, has 
five major rivers which discharge into the bay. With widely spaced barrier islands 
fronting this bay, Gulf water freely circulates and provides a rather well defined salinity 
gradient. The lower half of Tampa Bay is dominated by mangrove along its shore. 

Florida had nearly 20,400,000 acres of wetland in 1850. By 1985, the state had lost 
roughly 9,300,000 acres, or almost half of its wetlands. Sarasota Bay was no different 
than the state as a whole. From 1948 to 1987, 51 percent of the marsh and mangrove 
areas of the bay area were lost, giving an average loss of 59 acres per year (Estevez 
1992). The significance of this loss becomes obvious when the importance of these areas 
as fishery habitat is examined (Lewis et al. 1985). 


Florida's Ecosystem and Fishery Resources 

In Florida, over 70 percent of the commercially and recreationally landed species of 
finflsh and shellfish are estuarine-dependent for at least part of their life cycle. For the 
Atlantic coast of Florida, between 60-70 percent of economically important species spend 
some part of their life cycle in estuaries. Furthermore, over 90 percent of the commercial 
biomass and 80 percent of the recreational biomass from the Gulf of Mexico are estuarine 
dependent. Estuarine ecosystems play an extremely important role in life cycle for these 
important resources. Because of the complexity of any species life history, habitat use 
becomes a "mosaic" of use with various different types and areas being inhabited during 
different life stages. The alteration of any one of these habitats can critically affect a 
species' ability to sustain a healthy population. 

One of the most important roles for the coastal marsh system is as a nursery area. 
Many of the estuarine-dependent species spawn offshore while their larvae are 
transported into the estuary. With their beginning in those areas of less salinity, they 
grow and move toward areas of higher salinity and eventually complete their life cycle 
offshore. In addition, as adults many species utilize these marsh areas for protection, 
feeding and other purposes. Some of the more important estuarine-dependent 
commercial species are menhaden (Brevoortia tyrranus), penaeid shrimp {Penaeidae), 
blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus), and black or striped mullet {Mugil cephalus). Important 
estuarine-dependent recreational species are spotted sea trout {Cynoscion negulosus), red 
drum {Sciaenops ocellatus), sand sea trout {Cynoscion arenarius), tarpon {Megalops 
atlantica) and black drum {Pongonias cromis). Still, some reef fish, i.e. red grouper 
{Epinephelus morio), and other pelagics (ocean going Scrombridae) may also depend 
upon these estuarine systems at some stage in their life history. 


Trends in Florida Fishing 

Florida's commercial and recreational fisheries provide important sources of food 
and recreation for both residents and visitors. Florida's total commercial seafood 
landings averaged around 180 million pounds from 1974 to 1994, prior to the net ban, 
with an average value of just less than 155 million dollars a year (Figure 3-2). 



-i — i — I — I — i — i — i — i — r 

-i — i — I — I — I — i — i — i — i — i — i — i — r- 

<f ^ v ^ N 4* J> ^ J> J> s # N # N ^ jP J> ^ J 



Figure 3-2. Florida's Total Commercial Fisheries Landings from 1974 to 2002. Source: 
National Marine Fisheries Service, 2004 

After the net ban became effective in 1995, average pounds drop below 150 million 

pounds and average around 130 million pounds. Florida's West coast averaged a little 

less than 125 million pounds during the time period of 1974-1994 with an average value 

of around 1 12 million dollars per year (Figure 3-3). Shrimp was the leading species in 

terms of value in the early 1950s, but since then the value of finfish and other 

invertebrates have caught up and are now almost equal in terms of value. Finfish have 

historically lead in terms of pounds landed but recently total landing weight has dropped 


and is now equivalent to both shrimp and invertebrates (Florida Coastal Management 
Program 1997). 






^ ^ ^ ^ J> ^ J s # N # J> ^ jp f f ,f 


Figure 3-3. Florida West Coast Total Commercial Fisheries Landings from 1974 to 
2002. Source: National Marine Fisheries Service, 2004. 

Landings have been relatively constant for Florida overall and the west coast, 
although the most recent years have been toward the lower end of the range. The most 
recent decrease in landings is due to the net ban and prior to that other regulation may 
have induced lower landings. Increased regulation has often limited the amount offish 
landed through implementation of Total Allowable Catch rules and quotas. A decreasing 
biomass which, is the impetus for increasing regulation, may be attributed to overfishing 
by both commercial and recreational fishermen. But, more importantly and not often 
readily apparent are decreases in biomass due to problems within the ecosystem such as, 
pollution, loss of habitat and other environmental distress. These are long-term problems 


that are very complex and difficult to explain and assess in terms of impact and effect 
upon fish populations. 

Saltwater recreational fishing has long been an important part of Florida's 
recreational economy. It was not until the early 1980's, however, that Florida and the 
National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) began to gather data on the number of 
recreational fishermen, their catch and effort. For that reason, accurate and reliable data 
on recreational fishermen does not exist prior to 1981. Early data collected by the Marine 
Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS) was problematic and had very large 
margins of error. That system has been improved although there are some who still 
believe the margins of error are too large. In addition, Florida did not require a saltwater 
fishing license until 1989 and therefore did not have a very reliable count on the actual 
number of recreational fishermen. Furthermore, the present licensing system excludes 
fishermen from docks and the shore in that they are not required to hold a fishing license. 

Florida's commercial and recreational saltwater fishermen compete for a wide 
variety of species offish, but only a few are important to both. Over the years, that 
competition has lead to vigorous debate over how Florida's fisheries are managed and 
who should receive an allocation or suffer the impacts of regulation. Figures 3-4 through 
3-8 provide landings for both commercial and recreational fishermen for several species. 
Bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix) landings have been relatively equivalent, although 
landings overall have been higher in most years for the recreational fishery, over time 
there has been a decrease in landings for both sectors. According to the Florida Marine 
Research Institute (Murphy and Muller 1995) bluefish landings showed a significant 
decline from 1981 to 1994 along the Atlantic coast but showed no such trend for the Gulf 


coast (Figure 3-4). Commercial catch rates for bluefish showed no significant change 
from 1988 except for after the net ban in 1995, while catch rates for recreational 
fishermen have increased on the Atlantic side and fluctuated without trend for the Gulf 
coast. Bluefish were considered overexploited in 1994 (Murphy and Muller, 1995). 









1.1 I 

A *> *> <^ st> oiP ^ qji q? d^> oN aV o?) p> eft cJo 

^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^°» ^°> ^ ^ V> $r$ 

Year ■ Bluefish Rec 

Bluefish Comm 

Figure 3-4. Bluefish Landings for Recreational and Commercial Fishermen from 1981- 
1996. Source: Florida Coastal Management Program 1997. 

Spotted sea trout (Cynoscion negulosus) landings (Figure 3-5) illustrate that this 

fishery has historically been a recreational fishery. As with bluefish, spotted sea trout has 

seen a decline in landings for both sectors. Catch rates for the commercial sector are 

constant because of regulations implementing a quota and trip limits in 1989. Catch rates 

for the recreational sector increased in 1990 and 1 991 after new regulations were 

imposed. Assessments completed on spotted sea trout in 1995 and 1994 suggested that 

the spawning potential ratio was between 15 and 19 percent, below the target level of 35 


percent established by the Marine Fisheries Commission (Murphy and Muller 1995). 
Spotted sea trout landings after the net ban are discussed in Chapter 7. 


rx. M 

r$£> r& ^ <& <& <&> <^ q^ q? oi^ -»N js\ eft o> a*5 ok 

<9» ^ ^ ^ ^* ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ * & •& ^ <F 

B Spotted Sea Trout Rec 
■ Spotted Sea Trout Comm 

Figure 3-5. Florida Spotted Sea Trout Landings for Commercial and Recreational 

Sectors from 1981-1996. Source: Florida Coastal Management Program 1997. 

Black Mullet (Mugil cephalus) has traditionally been a commercial species (Figure 

3-6). This is primarily because it is difficult to catch mullet with a hook and line, unless 

you are very patient with a blade of grass or bread ball. Mullet have a catadromous life 

cycle, which means they reside in fresh water but spawn at sea (Murphy and Muller 


Historically, commercial fishermen with large seines or gill nets caught mullet, as 
they "bunch up" in small groups. Mullet develop roe and spawn from November to 
January. As they get closer to spawning they form large groups very tightly bunched 
together and swim out to sea. They make an easy target for any net fishermen who might 
be there at the time of their migration. When mullet roe became more valuable in the 


1970's as demand from Asian markets increased, it became the primary fishery for many 
Florida fishermen who would also travel seasonally to other states to catch the spawning 
mullet. In fact, during research conducted in 1988 in Louisiana, interviews with 
fishermen there indicated that Florida fishermen developed the roe mullet fishery in that 






-flN & J& J& J& J&* jiS J»3> J& J& dS aV o?5 t> ch do 

$> $> $> ^ s #> ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^O) j$ v $r^ •$?$ 


Mullet Rec 
Mullet Comm 

Figure 3-6. Florida Landings of Mullet for Commercial and Recreational Sectors from 
1981-1996. Source: Florida Coastal Management Program 1997. 

Mullet had a spawning potential ratio 1 between 18 and 25 percent in 1992 that was 
below the 35 percent SPR set by the Marine Fisheries Commission. However, regulatory 
changes implemented in 1993 would have brought mullet out of the overfished status by 

Spawning potential ratio is a measure of the number of females capable of spawning 
within a particular stock offish. It gives an indication of the health of the stock and the 
larger the spawning potential ratio the better the health of the stock offish as the chances 
of reproducing are better. 


1998-2000 (Murphy and Muller 1995). Mullet landings after the net ban and its impact 
are discussed in Chapter 7. 

King mackerel (Scromberomorus cavalla) has become primarily a recreational 
fishery since the early 1980's (Figure 3-7). This is due in part to changes in regulations 
that limited the commercial catch through quotas and trip limits. Recreational fishermen 
have also been subjected to lower bag limits over the past decade, but landings have still 
increased for that sector. King mackerel are found year round in southeast and south 
Florida, but, only seasonally in the north. 

According to genetic research there are two different stocks of king mackerel on 
the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of Florida. Each is subject to different regulations as the 
Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council (GMFMC) and the South Atlantic Fishery 
Management Council (SAFMC) manage each of their respective stocks. 


S * N s *v N ^ f f / fj j ^ ^ fj j 


I King Mackerel Rec 
I King Mackerel Comm 

Figure 3-7. Florida Landings of King Mackerel for Commercial and Recreational Sectors 
from 1981-1996. Source: Florida Coastal Management Program 1997. 


Of the total landings, recreational fishermen for the Atlantic and Gulf coasts landed 
54 percent and 82 percent respectively (Murphy and Muller 1995). King mackerel have 
been overfished in the past but have recovered on both coasts. 

Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus) has been managed under a quota 
and bag limits through state regulation since 1986. Federal fishery management councils 
implemented compatible regulations in 1987 that have brought this species out of the 
overfished status (Murphy and Muller 1995). As seen in Figure 3-8 this is primarily a 
commercial fishery with 60 percent of landings on the Atlantic coast being commercial 
and 82 percent of Gulf coast landings being commercially harvested. As with king 
mackerel there seems to be both an Atlantic stock and possibly more than one Gulf stock. 
Catch rates for recreational fishermen have shown a general increase with a slight decline 
in 1994 (Murphy and Muller 1995). 

The mackerels and bluefish are pelagic which means they are ocean-going fish. 
Bluefish do come in close to the beach to feed and king and Spanish mackerel are also 
caught off docks and piers, but they are mainly fished nearshore or offshore. Mullet and 
sea trout are inshore species caught in the rivers, bays and nearshore areas. There are 
many other species offish that are targeted by Florida's saltwater fishermen. None of the 
reef fish species that are caught further offshore have been included here, but are still 
important in terms harvest and value to the commercial and recreational fisheries. 

These are the groupers (Mycteropercae), snappers (Lutjani), porgies (Pagri) and 
other reef dwellers. They have become more important over time as consumers tastes 
have widened to include many species which were not popular in the past and more 
recreational fishermen with larger boats and motors have improved ability to reach reefs 


offshore. Many reef fish species are overfished and both the state and federal 
management agencies have implemented regulations to limit both recreational and 
commercial fishermen. 



I Spanish Mackerel Rec 
Spanish Mackerel Comm 

Figure 3-8. Florida landings of Spanish Mackerel for Commercial and Recreational 
Sectors from 1981-1996. Source: Florida Coastal Management Program 

There are a few Cortez commercial fishermen who fish offshore for reef fish or 

shrimp. In fact, one fish house has a small fleet of boats referred to as the "grouper" 

boats and several shrimp trawlers. Grouper boats fish for reef fish using "bandit reels" 

which are powered reels with several hundred feet of fishing line and several hooks on 

each. They range in size from 30 to 50 feet in length. These boats may fish for several 

days to a week before they return to the dock. The crew commonly referred to as 

"grouper diggers" are often not from Cortez and are often considered drifters by local 

residents. The offshore shrimp trawlers are larger with a range of 50 to 80 feet in length. 

They too will fish for several days offshore before offloading. 


The majority of Cortez fishermen work primarily nearshore, the bays and estuaries 
for those species listed in the tables above fishing small net boats (called "kickers"), 
either fishing alone or with a crew of one. These boats are usually no longer than 30 feet 
(see description in Chapter 5). 

In addition, there is also a purse seine fishery for baitfish. Purse seine vessels are 
larger than the "kicker" boats with a size range of 50 to 70 feet. Baitfishes are usually 
menhaden, Spanish sardines or thread herring and caught with large purse seines. They 
are usually unloaded and boxed for retail sale to recreational fishermen whole or ground 
up for chum. 

There are other species that are allocated to recreational anglers only, like red drum 
(Sciaenops ocellatus), tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) and snook {Centropomus 
undecimalis). Commercial fishermen cannot target these species and must comply with 
the recreational bag limit restrictions. In addition, they may possess these species only 
without a net on board. Red drum is overfished and has been in the stages of rebuilding 
for close to ten years. Strict bag limits for recreational fishermen and commercial 
restrictions were implemented 1985. In 1986, the sale of red drum was prohibited 
making it an entirely recreational fishery (Schlesinger 1999). 
Sarasota Bay Fishing Trends 

It is difficult to assess fishing trends for an area like Sarasota Bay because data are 
not collected in such detail to provide catch statistics for either commercial or 
recreational fishermen. The Sarasota Bay National Estuary Program (1992) did attempt 
to assess these fisheries resources. Because of limited commercial data, the report 
focused upon survey research conducted for the recreational sector and a brief report on 
landings data for the commercial fishery. 


Manatee County's total commercial finflsh landings in 1986 were 15.6 million 
pounds and were dominated by menhaden {Brevoortia tyrannus) landings of 12.3 million 
pounds, with black mullet {Mugil cephalus) landings of just over 3 million pounds. Total 
landings for that year were second only to Gulf County, which had landings of 17.4 
million pounds. Sarasota County landings were far less but, that can be accounted for as 
the majority offish caught in the bay are landed in Cortez. By 1990, there were 
significant drops in landings of Spanish sardines {Sardinella aurita) and red grouper 
{Epinephelus morio). Mullet {Mugil cephalus) remained stable with landings of 3.1 
million pounds. Spotted seatrout {Cynoscion negulosus) commercial landings also 
showed some decline, but could be attributed to many different factors (Edwards 1992). 

The two species that are most likely indicative of overall fishery trends within 
Sarasota Bay are spotted sea trout {Cynoscion negulosus) and black mullet {Mugil 
cephalus). Mullet landings peaked at around 6 million pounds in 1957, 1965, and 1969 
with a low of around 2 million pounds in 1976. Overall, there has been a decline in 
commercial landings since the early 1950s. The same is true of spotted seatrout with 
peak landings of 430,000 pounds in 1951 to average landings of around 100,000 pounds 
during the 1980's (Edwards 1992). 

The trend in recreational fishery is similar. Although the data are sparse comparing 
catch rates for spotted seatrout from the most recent survey with earlier studies it is 
obvious that catch rates have declined dramatically (Edwards 1992). 

The reasons behind this decline are complex, but it is important to note that during 
the timeframe for the declines in these two commercial fisheries, the population of the 
two county area increased tenfold from 64,000 in 1950 to 490,000 in 1990. The 


environmental impacts of such population growth have been documented before and 
therefore it is likely that such an increase in population along Sarasota Bay has had 
similar impacts (Edwards, 1992). Those impacts range from shifting patterns in harvest, 
i.e., spotted seatrout, where the recreational sector increases its harvest to impacts upon 
the environment from destruction of habitat, i.e., building of seawalls, removal of 
mangroves, increased storm water runoff, etc. It is likely that both the recreational and 
commercial fisheries of Sarasota Bay have contributed to the declines in fisheries, 
especially those like spotted seatrout. However, it is also likely that the main contributors 
to the decline in fisheries are environmental changes, especially loss of habitat. Sarasota 
Bay has lost 20-30 percent of its seagrasses, 39 percent of its wetlands, and 78 percent of 
its natural shoreline. With these types of environmental impacts, there will be a 
subsequent decline in fisheries (Edwards, 1992). 
Marine Fisheries Regulation 

Florida fishermen, both commercial and recreational are subject to both federal 
and state laws when fishing. Florida has jurisdiction from shore to three miles of their 
coastline along the Atlantic coast and nine miles on the Gulf coast. Outside of state 
jurisdiction, Federal fishery management councils create rules and regulations 
implemented by the National Marine Fisheries Service in what is called the Exclusive 
Economic Zone, which extends 200 miles from state waters. Florida fisheries 
regulations, as with most coastal states in the Gulf and South Atlantic, are enforced 
through cooperative agreements between the Florida Marine Patrol, National Marine 
Fisheries Service Enforcement, and the Coast Guard. The state of Florida, the Gulf and 
South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries 
Commission and the National Marine Fisheries Service all cooperate to implement laws 


that are not redundant or contradictory to one another. However, the vested interest of 
any one of the management agencies can supersede the others and create incompatible or 
different regulations for the fishing public. These laws usually take the form of a fishery 
management plan which can encompass one or more species. The plans are often 
directed toward a species group, but action can be taken to remedy problems with one 
species that may require special attention. 

Until recently, laws created by the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission (FMFC) 
regulated Florida's saltwater fishermen. The Florida Legislature created the Commission 
in 1983 with rule-making authority over marine life, with the exception of endangered 
species. All rules, however, would need to receive final approval from the Governor and 
Cabinet. The FMFC consisted of seven commissioners appointed by the Governor and 
approved by the State Senate. Members of the FMFC served four-year terms. Prior to 
the establishment of the Commission, fisheries regulation was undertaken by local 
authorities, which by 1983 had established over 220 local laws concerning saltwater 
fishing. Once established, the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission reviewed these local 
laws and they were either repealed or continued in effect. Since its inception, the FMFC 
has implemented at least 500 distinct saltwater fishing regulations approved by the 
Governor and Cabinet. 

The FMFC was originally made up of individuals from both the recreational and 
commercial sectors that had some interest in the fisheries being managed. In later years, 
appointees from the commercial sector were seldom appointed. This issue was often 
alluded to by those from the commercial sector as an inequity within the rule-making 
process. Others from the recreational sector considered the participation of those from 


the commercial sector to be in direct conflict with the rule-making process since they had 
an economic interest in the outcome. Nevertheless, because rules needed approval from 
the Governor and Cabinet, it provided the commercial sector with an opportunity to 
challenge the FMFC through lobbying efforts at the Cabinet level. This opportunity for 
political maneuvering became an important issue during the Save Our Sealife campaign 
which would ban the use of entanglement nets in state waters and the more recent joining 
of the State's freshwater and saltwater fishery management agencies. 

The commercial fishing industry's relationship with the FMFC at that time was 
very reminiscent of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC) and 
its relationship to inland commercial fisheries that was reported by Gibson-Carpenter 
(1992) and her study of alligator hunters. In her dissertation she examines the ban on 
various commercial gear types which eventually put most commercial fishermen who 
fished inland waters out of business. The dynamics of how those regulations came about 
are very similar to the state of affairs between commercial fishermen and the marine 
fisheries management agency prior to the net ban. The FFWCC, at that time, was under 
strong pressure from recreational interests to ban commercial fishing in lakes and rivers. 
Similarly, agency personnel who had conducted assessments were reporting that 
commercial fishing could continue without having a deleterious impact upon fish stocks 
if regulated properly. These reports did not appease the recreational fishing interest 
groups and some agency personnel were forced to leave the agency under pressure from 
those associations according to one informant (Gibson-Carpenter 1992). The agency 
eventually banned the use of most commercial gear for freshwater fishing. 


Social Environment 

With its steadily increasing population, Florida's social environment has provided 
the backdrop for significant changes in the state. The destination for the majority of that 
population has been along its coast. There has also been a trend toward a more urban and 
an older population. The combination of all these factors has had its impact upon 
Florida's natural resources and the communities that depend upon them, like Cortez. 
Florida Population Trends and Demographics 

Florida's population has seen steady growth over the last century. In 1920 the 
state's population was 968,470 according to the census for that year. By 1990 that 
number had grown to 12,937,930 and by 2000 was well over 15 million (Figure 3-9). 
Most of that growth has been concentrated along the coastline. The number of 
individuals who live in Florida's coastal counties has increased at a rate much faster than 
that for noncoastal counties as seen in Figure 3-10. While just fewer than sixty percent 
(59.0) of the population lived in coastal counties in 1920, that percentage grew to almost 
eighty percent (79.3) in 1970 before dropping slightly in 1980 (78.6). That percentage is 
projected to continue to drop through the year 2020. However, the coastal population is 
projected to reach over 15 million by the year 2020 (Florida Coastal Management 
Program 1997). 

Related to the general increase in coastal population are two other important 
demographics. The first is an increasing population density for coastal counties; a rate 
much faster than that for the rest of the state. The other is an increasing trend toward 
urbanization of the state. Coastal counties had a population density of 19.03 persons per 
square mile in 1920. That number increased to 335.21 by 1990. That compares to 16.45 
persons per square mile in 1920 to 1 19.04 in 1990 for non-coastal counties. 


12,000,000 - 
| 10,000,000 


<£ 8,000,000 - 
2,000,000 - 



— — . — 1 — 1 1 — 1 1 II III 


p #* ^ / ^ f f ^ ^ & & / # £ # # ^ # 


Figure 3-9. Florida's Total Population from 1830-2000. Source: U.S. Census Bureau 

Furthermore, in 1920 fifty-one percent of those living in coastal counties lived in 
urban areas, by 1990 that figure had risen to 90 percent (Florida Coastal Management 
Program 1997). The reasons for that shift are varied, but include general growth in urban 
areas and also migration from rural areas to urban. This shift toward urbanization is 
important because most, if not all, fishing communities in Florida began as relatively 
isolated rural communities. These demographic changes have certainly had an impact 
upon most coastal communities, many of which were or are still dependent upon 
commercial fishing as an important source of income. 
Manatee County and Cortez Population Trends and Demographics 

Manatee County like most coastal counties in Florida has experienced its share of 
growth. The county's population in 1930 was 22,502 with a median age of 25.4. The 
2000 census indicated a population of 264,002 with a median age of 43.6. The change in 


median age is an important statistic that indicates of the importance of Florida as a 
retirement destination for many retirees from throughout the United States. 




1920 1930 1940 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 


□ Coastal Counties 
BS Noncoastal Counties 

Figure 3-10. Florida Coastal County and Noncoastal County Population from 1920 to 
1990. Source: Florida Coastal Management Program 1997. 

Coastal counties, like Manatee, are most likely the preferred destination for those 
retiring to the state as they have seen the most growth over the years. Coastal counties 
are also the preferred destination for other seasonal residents within the state. Manatee 
County had approximately 20,000 seasonal residents in 1987 that accounted for between 
16-18 percent of the population. A 1987 survey of visitors to Manatee County found that 
the majority of seasonal visitors were from Midwestern states and that 56 percnet of 
foreign visitors were from Canada. Another 14 percent and 12 percent of foreign visitors 
were from Germany and England respectively (Clarke Advertising 1987). 

The increasing population of retirees along with the large number of seasonal 
residents has important implications for the economic base of the county. According to 
the 1997 economic census, Figure 3-1 1 shows that personal income from fishing during 


1984-1997 has fluctuated considerably, but has dropped most recently from previous 
years. In contrast, personal income from the service sector has seen a constant increase 
and is far and above the dollar value of fishing as seen in Figure 3-12. 




■a 1,500 


§ 1,000 • 










! ! 




1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 


Figure 3-11. Manatee County Personal Income from Fishing for 1984 through 1997. 
Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2000. 

Cortez Population and Demographics 

These demographic changes in Manatee County have certainly affected Cortez. In 
1887, a General Directory for Manatee County listed 49 heads of households and of 
those, 33 were listed as fishermen (Manatee County Historical Records Library). In 
1920, the census found a population of 290 individuals in Cortez with 66 of those people 
employed as fishermen. The 1990 census classifies Cortez as a Census Designated Place 
and its entire population of 4,509 as urban. That population dropped slightly in the latest 
census with a population of 4,491 in 2000. In addition, the 1990 census found of those 
persons 16 years and over 58 were employed in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, falling 


in 2000 to 39. The median age for Cortez in 1990 was 65.3 dropping slightly to 62.5 in 
2000 (U.S. Census Bureau 2000). 












200,000 J 



& ^ ^ & f & # ^ # & # $> & / 


Figure 3-12. Manatee County Personal Income from Service Industries for 1984 through 
1997. Source: U.S. Census Bureau 2000. 

Cortez like many coastal communities in Florida has seen the steady advance of 

urban sprawl as a result of the increasing population within Manatee County. The once 

unpaved road from Bradenton is now four lanes to the Cortez city limit with numerous 

businesses along the way catering to tourists and seasonal residents. With the 

construction of the bridge to Anna Maria Island in the 1920s Cortez no longer was the 

destination at the end of the road, but one of many neighborhoods to pass on the way to 

the beach. It is ironic when tourists' visiting Cortez for the first time comment that they 

never realized the community was located where it is. They never made the association 

that "Cortez Road" led to Cortez. 


Although the U.S. Census Bureau lists the population of Cortez as 4,491, it is 
unlikely that older Cortesians would consider the community to be that large. For the 
majority of those who consider themselves "native" to Cortez, the community is much 
smaller. The original community center is south of Cortez Road where the fish houses 
are located, on the working waterfront. There are some who do not include those who 
reside to the north of Cortez Road as residents of the historic community. However, 
several key figures within the history of the community do reside there. The 2000 census 
lists 3,308 households in Cortez, but the historic village consists of less than 200. To the 
north of Cortez Road there have been several recent developments that include 
condominiums, in addition to single-family homes. To the east of Cortez, along Cortez 
Road toward Bradenton, several trailer park communities have been developed and are 
most likely included in the census of Cortez. Neither of these of developments is 
considered to be part of the historic village. In fact, most individuals who reside in these 
developments would not consider themselves residents of Cortez, but more likely 
Bradenton. Many of these residents are seasonal and live in other states out of "season." 
The "season" begins in late October and lasts until March; it is the period when most 
seasonal visitors come to the area to escape the colder climate of their customary 

The high median age for Cortez is characteristic of the migration of retirees to this 
area. It may also be an indication of changes in the historic village that relate to a process 
sometimes referred to as "gentrification." The process of gentrification relates to the 
increasing value of property as individuals of higher socio-economic class begin to move 
into an area and acquire land (Gale 1991). In addition, these individuals are usually from 


a different part of the state or nation and do not share the same attachment to the 
landscape or community that comes from long-term residence. It becomes increasingly 
difficult for younger members of the community to buy or rent property, which further 
makes their ability to stay within the historic village less likely. Within the community of 
Cortez rents reflect this change as I found out when looking for a place to reside during 
my stay in the community. Rents were commonly quoted at $700 to $1000 a month for a 
house within the village. This is not unexpected when beach property just over the bridge 
can bring that or even more in season. 

Many of the community's younger residents are able to stay within the village 
because of their kinship ties to property owners. My own stay in the village was possible 
because a fisherman, who owned property within the village, charged me considerably 
less than the going rate for housing in the community. For the most part, the younger 
fishermen in Cortez do not reside in the historic village, but often outside the community. 
This is becoming an increasingly common pattern of residence in communities with 
economies dependent upon tourism (Oliver-Smith et al. 1989). 

Not only has the demographic shift brought an older population to Cortez and the 
surrounding community, but also more often than not, these new seasonal and permanent 
residents are of a different economic class. Although most are not as wealthy as those 
who reside in the exclusive areas of Longboat Key, they are more likely of a higher 
socioeconomic class than most native Cortesians and local fishermen. This is an 
important demographic because along with the higher socioeconomic class comes a 
higher education level and other resources which offer an advantage when participating 
in local political and economic spheres. 


Cortez, like so many other coastal fishing communities has endured significant 
change that comes from a steadily growing population within the state. Those changes 
come in the form of environmental change and social change and have far reaching 
impacts for the community's survival. Because it is dependent upon natural resources for 
its economic base, if natural resources are unsustainable for whatever reason, then Cortez 
as a fishing community will likely also be unsustainable. 



Archaeological data indicate the waters surrounding Cortez were likely fished by 
indigenous hunter/fisher-gatherers prior to the Spanish exploration of Florida. The 
number of shell mounds along Florida's Central and Southwest Gulf Coast confirms that 
groups like the Timucuans, Tocobaga and Calusa exploited the plentiful marine resources 
in the region possibly as early as 5,000 B.C. (Matthews 1983). These prehistoric 
inhabitants had highly stratified societies governed by chiefs who often created alliances 
through marriage and polygamy. There is archaeological evidence of permanent housing 
and villages with populations in the hundreds. Warfare existed between these regional 
groups with the Calusa being the most important in population size and political 
organization (Marquardt 1986). The Timucuan to the North and the Calusa to the South 
bordered the Tocobaga who resided near present day Cortez. 

The abundant marine resources for these coastal residents have been noted in many 
historic documents. One Spaniard held captive as a slave commented upon the fishing 
prowess of the Tocobaga saying they never lacked fresh fish (Matthews 1983). Remains 
from shell middens have indicated that the fish and shellfish harvested from the nearshore 
waters were important resources for these coastal groups who may also have practiced 
horticulture. Bones and other material from shell mounds suggest seasonal fluctuations 
in the harvest of certain species offish coincided with spawning activity as does the 



contemporary use of many species. However, it is not clear whether the same species, 
such as mullet, were being exploited by these early hunter/fishers as they are by present 
day fishermen. Using spears, traps, and weirs fish were taken from dry rock enclosures 
built at low tide. There is also evidence of fishing nets with shell sinkers being used by 
indigenous fishermen (Marquardt 1986). 

Early Spanish Fisheries 

It is likely that DeSoto was the first European explorer to arrive, in what is now 
Manatee County, in the year 1538 following Narvaez who earlier had landed to the north 
close to Tampa Bay. DeSoto, landing at what is now called Shaw's Point, spent a brief 
time in the area since it showed little promise of the riches he sought and the Indians 
seemed hostile. Indeed, another Spanish commander, Menendez, later attempted to 
create peace between these warring factions and tried to establish outposts in both Calusa 
and Tocobaga lands. Both attempts eventually failed and in the end Menendez advocated 
the removal of the Indians in la Florida. This would prove unnecessary for by the mid 
1700's most of the Tocobaga, Ocita, Calusa and Timucuan had disappeared, succumbing 
to disease and destruction at the hands of the Spanish. It was later that the Seminole 
moved into the area (Matthews 1983). 

While the Spanish were unable to establish permanent settlements in the area they 
did make use of the plentiful marine resources. They traded with the Indians and 
eventually sent boats from Havana to fish the area waters. By 1 769 there were estimated 
to be 300-400 Spanish fishermen along the Southwest coast using nets made of silk grass 
(Matthews 1983:68). They established temporary camps called "ranchos" with thatched 
huts that were used to dry and salt fish, but also had gardens and citrus groves. These 
camps dotted the shoreline and were noted by British officials that were surveying the 


coast. There was some concern about the Spanish and Indian trade by early colonial 
authorities but it was allowed to continue for the time (Matthews 1983). 

Capt. Bunce's Fishery 

In 1 834 Capt. William Bunce who had arrived from Key West was appointed 
justice of the peace for the newly established Hillsborough County. He quickly entered 
into the fishing business and established a rancho near Shaw's Point on the Manatee 
River. His business rapidly grew and he soon had over thirty thatched-roofed huts on his 
rancho. Business was lucrative keeping the Havana markets supplied with fish and roe. 
Bunce was not the only party interested in these bounteous resources. At the time there 
were at least six other ships in the area working the local waters from Charlotte Harbor to 
Tampa Bay. These ships had the capability to deliver live fish to Havana for they had 
wells filled with salt water on board to keep fish as fresh as possible. Bunce employed a 
number of Spanish and Spanish Indians in the fishery that would later prove troublesome 
as the American government tried to expel the Indians from the State as tensions grew 
between the two. He was forced to move his rancho several times and finally saw it 
destroyed by the U.S. Army shortly before he died (Matthews 1983). 

The frontier that Bunce pioneered was changing rapidly, people were steadily 
moving to the area. To the east of Bunce's original rancho on the Manatee River the 
village of Braidentown would soon be established, and shortly after the fishing camp to 
the south at Hunter's Point would soon attract more than itinerant fishermen. 

Hunter's Point Fishery 

The first documentation of a fishery located near present day Cortez (then called 
Hunter's Point) appeared with the United States Commission of Fish and Fisheries report 
for the year 1880. In that report Silas Stearns called the Hunter's Point fishery one of the 


most important fisheries on the coast although only eighteen fishermen were employed 
there. Many of the fishermen were reported to be "Conchs," 1 the rest apparently 
American-born. Stearns described two seines being used at the fishery, one being 100 
fathoms long, the other 75 fathoms long. Cast nets were also used but only in shallow 
water. Two sizes of boats were being operated in the fishery, the larger boat which 
carried the seine was approximately 29 feet in length, the smaller boats used to tend the 
net were 16 feet in length. All had a shallow draft and were said to "be better built than 
the average" (Stearns 1887:543). 

An abundance offish and good catches for the year were reported with 10,000 
pound recounted in one particularly memorable haul. In fact, the fish were so plentiful 
that they were said to make a thunderous noise day and night as they leaped from the 
water. In one account there were so many fish in the seine that with a surge the bulging 
net was carried away from the fishermen (Stearns 1887). 

The Cuban markets at the time were paying four cents for salt fish and fifty cents a 
dozen for dried roe. After costs the owners of the fishery apparatus received 15 percent, 
owners of the vessel taking fish to Cuba received 20 percent and the remainder went to 
the crew. Each crewmember received one share with boys receiving a half; the captain 
received a share and a half (Stearns 1887). 

Conchs were fishermen, originally from England, who had migrated from the Bahamas 
to Key West. They were thought to have little education and therefore suffered much 
discrimination at the hands of other fishermen. 

A fisherman made this same claim from Cedar Key in an interview conducted in 1990 as 
he described the mullet in his early days as a fisherman that "made such a racket at night 
that you could not sleep at night." 


Stearns reported several buildings owned by Sweetzer and Thompson at the 
Hunter's Point fishery to accommodate the fishing. One large building, thirty feet long, 
was for the curing offish and stood on pilings away from the shore. Two others 
buildings, one for cooking and dining, with a room for the captain's family and another 
the crew's quarters, were near the larger building. The former was of wooden plank 
construction while the latter was palmetto thatch. Seine reels for drying nets and racks 
for drying fish were also present. Boat ways for the repair and maintenance of fishing 
vessels were near the shore. These were temporary homes, as the fishermen apparently 
would spend only three or four months at the fishery (Stearns 1 887). 
North Carolina Fishermen arrive in Cortez 

It was not until the late 1800's when the first migrants from North Carolina whose 
descendants comprise most of Cortez's present day fishing population settled in Hunter's 
Point. With the advent of rail transportation travel had become much easier. The newly 
completed railway from the East coast to Cedar Key made Florida's West coast more 
accessible to sojourners from the Northeast. Steamers plying the waterways provided 
convenient transportation for those wishing to venture south. Soon the railway was 
extended to Tampa and the migration south began with fervor. 

According to Green (n.d.) three Fulford brothers, Billy, Nathan and Sanders along 
with James E. Guthrie and Charles Jones were some of the first to travel from Carteret 
County, North Carolina to Florida and eventually build homes on Hunter's Point. These 
men and their families had moved from Perico Island where they had settled after moving 
from Cedar Key. The land was purchased from Allen and Mary Gardiner who were 
originally from New York State. Of the original homes built on Hunter's Point only three 


remain today. William Fulford built two of the remaining homes and the other built by 
Nate Fulford (Green n.d.). 

According to a county directory by 1897 there were at least forty-nine people living 
in the village of Hunter's Point and thirty-three of them were fishermen. Mrs. S.J.C. 
Bratton was listed as postmaster for the village. 3 The Brattons were early residents of 
Hunter's Point and evidently owned a considerable amount of real estate. They built 
Bratton's store and later added more rooms to accommodate guests. At one point the 
Brattons rented the store to Jesse Burton but continued to maintain the hotel and docks. 
They later named the entire complex the Albion Inn. 4 The Brattons left the area around 
1912 and sold the hotel, which eventually came under the ownership of J.O. Guthrie. 5 

There were two fish houses located on the waterfront by 1906 and several net 
camps and spreads. Net camps were set out away from shore on pilings and used to store 
spare nets that were used seasonally. They were also sleeping quarters for bachelor 
fishermen. These unmarried fishermen "boarded" with families in the village, their meals 

This demographic information was listed in a directory for Manatee County written by 
Andrew E. Meserve of Braidentown, Florida. The three Fulford brothers, James E. 
Guthrie, Charles Jones are all listed. Sanders Fulford is listed as a hotel operator and 
Charles Jones is listed as Capt. and master. 

The building became an important symbol to community activists when the U.S. Coast 
Guard decided to demolish the hotel. It was said to have no historic value and to be 
infested with termites by the Coast Guard. In spite of efforts by the local historical 
society and other activists the Coast Guard demolished the building. They did, however, 
allow the original store/Post Office to be salvaged. Often referred to as Jesse Burton's 
Store it now sits across from the A. P. Bell Fish Co. awaiting a home and renovation. 

5 According to Green (1985) the Bratton's sold the hotel to the Cheatem sisters who 
several years later sold it to the Edney sisters. When Joe Guthrie married Bessie Edney, 
it was given to the newly married couple as a wedding present. 


being provided, including a lunch to be taken with them while fishing. A native of 

Cortez, Paul Taylor remembers his mother used to have boarders: 

Some of the boys that was fishin 1 around here they would sleep... .they used to have 
little buildings all up and down this shore here and the boys would keep a little 
bunk in there to sleep on. And they would come up to the house and get their 
meals at the house there. And my mother used to have three or four boarders like 
that. Fix their lunch for 'em, you know, to carry fishin' with them. 6 

Green (n.d.) has stated that the Brattons donated land for a community church to be 
built around the turn of the century. Both the present day Church of Christ and the 
Church of God used the building after it was erected; one used it in the morning and the 
other at night. Both religious groups in Cortez were formed during the fundamentalist 
revival of the 1920's. The Church of God and the Church of Christ believe in a literal 
translation of the bible. Services within the Church of Christ are reserved allowing no 
musical instruments, only a cappella singing. Their counterparts interpreted the bible in a 
slightly different manner choosing a more Pentecostal style. They were referred to as 
"holy rollers" because of their raucous services with loud music and speaking in tongues. 

Other vestiges of civilization were making inroads into the fishing community. A 
one-room schoolhouse was built in 1896 to provide an education for Cortez residents. 
That building still stands today, presently being used as a residence (Green n.d.). 

The village continued to grow with a population of 1 10 by 1910. The dirt road to 
Bradenton had been paved with shells from a nearby shell mound in the early 1 900's. 
The one room schoolhouse was sold and a new larger brick school building was 
constructed in 1912, one of six new schools in Manatee County at the time. A new 
general store appeared on the shoreline run by M.F. Brown. There were still two fish 

6 Oral history with Paul Taylor, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute of Saltwater 
Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


houses on the waterfront; one was located on the Albion Inn hotel dock owned by J.O. 
Guthrie and run by the Hibb's Fish Company from Tampa. The other was set on pilings 
away from the shore; it was owned by Jess Williams but leased to John Saverese who 
delivered his fish to Sarasota. 7 

A town meeting held at M. F. Brown's store on June 8, 1912 was for the purpose of 
electing officials and designating Cortez as the official village name (Green n.d.)- The 
community was becoming less and less a frontier-fishing outpost. The environment still 
made life unpleasant, though. Hordes of mosquitoes and disease plagued the small 
coastal village, which saw outbreaks of malaria and other disease. A flu epidemic in 
1918 killed several people. Water was scarce at times with rainwater tanks providing the 
only freshwater. It was not until L.J.C. Bratton put in the first artesian well at the Albion 
Inn that a reliable supply of water was available (Green 1985). 

Early fishing boats were called "skipjacks." Skipjacks were small wooden plank 
boats, probably no longer than 16 ft. guided by poling oars. They had a rounded bottom 
with a centerboard and a place for a mast so that sails could be erected and used when 
traveling long distances. Masts were removable so as not to impede the fishing 
operation. The rudder was also removable so that it would not be in the way as the net 
was pulled from the aft of the boat. Racing skipjacks was a favorite pastime of fishermen 

7 Oral history with Orie Williams, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute of 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 

The community had earlier been designated Cortez by a postal official in 1 888, 
however, the name may not have been popular. Some speculate that the official was 
misinformed and had assumed that the Spanish explorer Cortez had landed nearby rather 
than DeSoto. The name Hunter's Point also has a mysterious history with some early 
residents claiming it was named so for its good hunting. However, it is more likely that a 
prominent family named Hunter who lived in the area owned the land. 


from Cortez when they were not working. Only a few remember actually seeing the early 

sailboats and they tell stories of the lighter side of life in Cortez: 

But sailboats I don't recall too much because they were almost extinct by the time 
that I got up big enough to run around the docks. But I remember seeing a few of 
them, yes. I'd hear my father talk about 'em and one of the greatest sports in Cortez 
for the grown men in the early ages was racing sailboats. 

My father told me that they had two fellas that were hard to beat. But I'm happy to 
say that my daddy was considered the top notch in racing....But that was Mr. Alvee 
Taylor and Mr. Willis Adams; he said they were heavy contenders....They had a 
starting point right in front of Cortez and they would cross the bay towards the 
island. They had a marker to go around on the island side and they would race. 
Twenty-five cents [that was the prize]. 9 

Fishermen worked in crews, usually four boats together. Each crewmember would 
set his net around the fish joining the opposite end of another fisherman's net. At one end 
of the net a pole was attached which was stuck in the bay bottom to hold the net vertically 
in place. Each fisherman would attach the end of their net to the other's pole completing 
a circle around the fish. Seines and gill nets were both used by fishermen. Seines had a 
small mesh and fish were unable to swim through the net. A tighter and tighter circle was 
made in a shallow area with the net so that fish could be bailed from within the circle 
eventually. With gill nets fish would "gill" in the net as they tried to swim through. The 
mesh is too small for them to pass and their gills prevent them from backing out. Smaller 
fish pass through, while larger fish became entangled in the net. 

Nets were made of cotton and were spread on drying racks after a days fishing or 
they would rot. Lime was used to clean and preserve the net, killing the destructive 
bacteria. Before the net was hauled onto the spreads, lime was mixed with saltwater and 

Oral history with Orie Williams, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


poured over the net as it lay in the back of the boat. Historic photographs of the Cortez 
harbor show large net spreads and reels with waves of white net drying. 

The 1921 Hurricane 
By 1920 the population of Cortez had grown to 290 with 65 heads of household 
and 66 persons engaged in fishing. 10 A sign of the times had appeared with the 
construction of a wooden bridge to Anna Maria Island. The Florida boom was in 
progress and more and more people were coming to the area. A steady stream of 
migrating fishermen and other family members from North Carolina continued to make 
Cortez their destination. Prospects for the sleepy little village were looking up, but not 
for long. 

The year 1921 is important for many older residents of Cortez for that was the year 
of "the big one." The 1921 hurricane destroyed most of the Cortez waterfront; the Albion 
Inn was the only waterfront building to survive. Green (n.d.) explains that time is still 
reckoned by some of the older residents as before or after the hurricane, even after 
seventy years have passed. Sarasota was also hit hard by the '21 hurricane, but unlike 
Cortez, never rebuilt its waterfront and today all remnants of the fishing village that once 
was there have disappeared. One Williams, a former resident of Cortez, described what 
he remembers after the hurricane: 

The shoreline, generally speaking, was covered with net racks for drying the nets 
after being used. Then they had what they called camps.... Those were all blown 
down and washed down. And so, there were a lot of nets of various descriptions all 
in an entanglement around the posts that survived, just stickin' up. The buildings 
didn't survive, but numerous posts they were resting upon were still there with all 
this entanglement. They had to get in there and salvage....Some boats were hurtin' 
pretty bad. 


From the fourteenth census of the United States-Precinct 13, Manatee County, Florida. 


But generally speaking, the fishermen in Cortez didn't suffer much with their boats, 
as an all over picture, because they, so to speak, "smelled it coming." So, they took 
precautionary measures with their boats. Some of the flat bottom boat types, they 
would sink 'em so the waves would wash over 'em and wouldn't bother 'em. But in 
the storm of '21 there were hardly any flat bottom boats. Prior to the motorization 
of those fishing boats, it was sail. They called them skipjacks." 

The community began the arduous task of rebuilding, salvaging what they could. 
They rebuilt the waterfront from new and salvaged materials. Two outsiders who ran the 
fish houses, Henry Hibbs and John Savarese, never rebuilt in Cortez. Local villagers like 
"Judge" Millis who opened Star Fish Co. and Jess Williams who reopened the Fish 
House quickly filled the void (Green 1985). Within a matter of years the Cortez docks 
looked much as they did before the hurricane. The bridge to the island was completed in 
1922 and a new era for the region was ushered in; recreational tourism would grow like 
never before. Starting with a few thousand "tin can tourists" it would culminate with 
high-rise condominiums and millions of visitors to the area each year. 

Tin Can Tourists were labeled such because they brought most of their provisions 
with them as they traveled. Sleeping in their trucks or rooming in the village they ate the 
canned food they had brought with them. Local historian Doris Green remembers the 
early tourists: 

Tin Can, as they liked to say: "They brought all of their food supplies with them a 
live dollar bill and a pair of pants and didn't change either one of them while they 
were here." Of course, back in those times there were no trailer parks or anything 
and they would just room, if a person had a spare room. They'd put in a little 
kerosene cook stove, a bed and they'd be set up for the winter n 


Oral history with Orie Williams, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


Oral history with Doris Green, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute of Saltwater 
Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


Tourism was a part of Cortez from its inception. Many seasonal visitors who have 
been coming to the village for decades are considered a part of the community. 
However, later arrivals to the area around Cortez were not as welcome. 

One technological innovation introduced just prior to the hurricane inaugurated a 

change that would transform commercial fishing forever. With the introduction of 

motors, one and two cylinder engines quickly replaced sails for powering boats. Nate 

Fulford was the first to place a motor in his boat, the Ethel; it had a 4 HP Barker engine 

with no muffler (Green n.d.:27). Retired fisherman Paul Taylor remembers the transition 

and especially the motors: 

I can remember them ole' Myannis Engines with 5 horse they called it. Then what 
they called a 7 1/2 horse. My father had two boats. On the smallest one he had the 
5 horse and he used it more than he did the other one. That was an old boat. 
Finally ended up one time puttin' a 4 cylinder Star motor in the boat. It was kinda 
like a 4 cylinder, like a T Model 4 engine. 13 

One can only imagine how quickly life changed with the introduction of motors. 
Daily life in the quiet fishing village had to be altered as residents were roused from their 
early morning sleep as fishermen fired up their new engines. Other forms of 
transportation like steamers would soon disappear and trucks would deliver products to 
the Tampa markets. 

Any change in Cortez seemed to meet with some challenge. Whether this 
resistance was a matter of convention or for other reasons is not clear. In the case of 
fishing gear, it may have meant better access to the resource when new and more 
effective fishing gear was introduced. Whatever the reason, some change was resisted 

13 Oral history with Paul Taylor, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute of Saltwater 
Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


more than others. Stopnetting was introduced in the 1920's, but never became popular 

until later. It was a method of fishing using as much as 10,000 yards of net, enough to 

encircle a small island or stop the mouth of a small river. Several skiffs were towed 

behind a larger motorized launch to haul the many sections of net. Crews were made up 

of as many as eight men. The net was set at high tide with shallow nets closer to shore. 

As the tide would go out, the fish that were often in the shallow water were forced into 

the deeper holes that were then surrounded with the deeper nets. This method of fishing 

was very controversial when it was introduced. So controversial that it initiated a feud 

between the hook and line fishermen and the stop-netters in the village. The feud reached 

its climax when fisherman Joe Fulford, who had been very vocal about his dislike of 

stopnetting, had a stick of dynamite explode beneath his house. Luckily, he was not 

injured and three men were arrested. They were later released and Joe moved back to 

North Carolina. Cortez native Raymond Guthrie remembers the controversy over new 

fishing methods introduced by his father: 

He started seine fishin' and they all got mad at him 'cause he was seine-fishin', 
poured ashes onto his seine and ruined it. Then they started stop nettin' and they 
started raisin' sand about that too. Didn't like that. But then after everybody 
switched over and started doin' these type of things then everything was alright. I 
couldn't recall, Fulford. I don't remember his first name. He lived up there where 
Dutch lives now. He was a hook and liner and he was all the time fussin' about 
stop-netters and about everybody in general was hook and line-fishin'. And 
somebody took a stick of dynamite and put it onto a fishin' pole, shoved it under his 
bed one night and made a wreck out of the room but it didn't hurt him. Shortly 
after that he moved back to Carolina. 14 

Motors were not only used to power launches. The backbreaking work of pulling a 
net or seine full offish made the introduction of "donkey boats" a welcome invention. 

14 Oral history with Raymond Guthrie, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute of 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


Donkey boats were ordinary skiffs with an engine placed in the middle. By attaching a 
truck transmission and adding a "cathead" the motor does all the work hauling the net 
into the boat. This was especially welcome with stop-netting crews who had as much as 
ten thousand yards of wet net to pull in. 

The Depression 
The dramatic events on Wall Street preceding the Depression era were somewhat 
baffling to many Cortez residents. They experienced no great decline in their economic 
futures, except that life was made a little bit harder. The lack of money was the most 
difficult. Utility bills and other debts were left unpaid leaving many without the newest 
luxury for this frontier outpost, electricity. 15 However, most villagers still had their 
kerosene lamps and lanterns. Fishermen were being paid only a few cents a pound for 
mullet, little more than their predecessors of the century before (Green n.d.). Stargill 
Pringle, Cortez native and commercial fisherman remembers that day well: 

And when I was a little boy my daddy was in business in the early '20s with a fella 
named Shreck from up north. When the stock market crash came October 29, 1929 
my dad had $800 in the bank. Immediately the next morning we were broke. And 
we stayed broke until well up in the '40s. Wiped out. 16 

One interesting item of local folklore originated during the Depression. It has been 

said that Ripley's Believe It or Not featured Cortez as being the only town in the United 

States that never received any governmental aid during the entire Depression. The older 

residents claim it was because they could always catch fish or harvest shellfish in the 

Neriah Taylor, a local boat builder was the first to have electricity in his newly built 
home and boatworks in the year 1925. 

16 Oral history with Stargill Pringle, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute of 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


shallow waters of Sarasota Bay just south of the Cortez docks called the "Kitchen." You 

could always find something to eat, as Paul Taylor will attest: 

That's one thing, during the Depression. I heard 'em talkin* about it. People talkin' 
about, saying Cortez was the only place in the State that didn't ask for 
relief. ..Because during the Depression we had plenty offish to eat. We had plenty 
of clams, and along them days we had plenty of scallops, plenty of oysters. And 
you could go to the store for $2.50 and get all the good black-eyed peas and 
whiteside bacon and a sack of flour and a little bit of lard and you was fixed. You 
could eat for two or three weeks now. 17 

Another native of Cortez, Doris Green concurs that they always had something to 

eat during the Depression, but assures that it was no picnic. She also challenges the 

often-told story of no government relief for Cortez: 

Of course, we did not have much to spare as far as food was concerned. But we've 
always been helpful to each other when people needed help. But, as I told in my 
book, that story that I do not think it's true that Cortez was the only village or town 
in the whole country that did not receive welfare. I think that's just a good story 
that somebody made up. But we were not plush with anything. I'll tell you. It was 
hard, hard times. We just patched clothes and put paper in our shoes and went right 
on. It was not an easy time. 18 

Times were made even harder when the mullet disappeared. Shortly after the start 
of the Depression mullet became scarce and it was almost impossible to make a living 
from fishing. No one could explain why they did not show up in their usual abundance. 
Many fishermen were forced to find other work or move to other fishing communities, 
but they eventually returned. 

In 1932, the dealers in Cortez were paying a cent and a half a pound for mullet. 
When they decided to lower the price to a cent a pound the fishermen went on strike. 

Oral History with Paul Taylor, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 

I ft 

Oral History with Doris Green, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


The strike lasted only a few days as the dealers brought the price back up to a cent and a 
half. Everyone went back to work, but these times were hard. Everyone knew that even 
the dealers were not making money during the Depression. In fact several fish houses in 
Cortez went under during that era. There were other one and two day strikes in Cortez 
that ended with prices being raised, something that would eventually change. 
World War II and a New Era of Organization 

As with the rest of the nation, World War II was an apprehensive time for the 
village of Cortez. More than 65 men and women from the community had either been 
drafted or joined some branch of military service. Three men from Cortez were killed in 
action during the war. Those at home were never lacking for reminders of the war. 
Sarasota Bay south of Cortez was used as a bombing range for training pilots. Several 
Cortez fishermen told stories of rescuing downed pilots or watching as their planes 
crashed into the bay. For those who served it is vital memory and relived again and again 
through the many stories told. Village residents have often mentioned plans to list all 
those who served on a memorial wall to be painted on one side of a local fish house. 

A few fishermen were allowed deferment because they were food producers. 
Catches were good during the war years with one as large as 60,000 pounds in one set. In 
1945 Florida produced a record 55 million pounds of mullet. With so many fish and 
insufficient manpower, women and young boys and girls were recruited into the fishery 
being paid seventy-five cents an hour to throw fish on the dock (Green n.d.). The 
community was part of the war effort; they were producing food for the country. Times 
were hard, but Cortez continued to grow. Ralph Fulford remembers when his father built 
the fish house that still operates today: 


This fish house was built in the last of 41, first of *42. We started tearing the old 
fish house down the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed. Well, the 8th of 
December is when we started and we had this one complete, ready to go the 19th of 
January. Just a bunch of fishermen workin'. Had a couple men here, my future 
Dad-in-law, Earl Guthrie and Walter Taylor was kinda foremen and they made 80 
cents an hour. And Dad paid the fishermen 50 cents an hour for workin'. It was 
durin' the closed season on mullet so they didn't have anything else to do. So 
everybody was glad to get the 50 cents. 

When they returned from the war eager to begin fishing again, many veterans were 
surprised to find those who had remained in Cortez were on strike. It was the beginning 
of an on and off again association with organized labor. Those who had stayed behind or 
recently returned had joined the Seafarers International Union (SIU) and were striking for 
higher prices. A few returning veterans did not like this self-imposed closure, but soon 
agreed that prices needed to be raised and joined the effort. As with many other parts of 
the country, Cortez was in the middle of a postwar labor strike. The fishermen's 
association, with the SIU, did not last long. Although dealers finally gave in and raised 
the price of fish it was a short-term settlement. Unable to achieve a standard price 
statewide with dealers pitting fisherman against each other, the association with the SIU 
folded at the end of 1945 (Green 1985). 

The relationship between a dealer and a fisherman is often a tenuous arrangement. 
They may often be good friends or possibly relatives. A fisherman may be asked or ask 
to fish for a particular dealer. In return for his fish he is provided dock space, if needed, 
and usually a line of credit. The fisherman is then expected to sell his fish to that 
particular dealer and no other for the price determined by the fish house. It is usually a 

19 Oral History with Ralph Fulford, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


verbal agreement not likely sealed with even a handshake. It is a delicate balancing act 
of supply and demand for both product and labor. 

Credit is extremely important to fishermen because the financial risks of 
commercial fishing are dependent upon so many unknowns, i.e., weather, seasonality of 
fish, environmental catastrophe (red tide), etc. Even a good fisherman has a difficult time 
when fish are scarce. On the other hand, the credit agreement can be a great risk for the 
fish house. Fishermen are known for their independence and have walked away from 
debts owed to fish dealers with no intention of ever repaying them. The price offish has 
been the motive behind many fishermen leaving a fish house and the arrangements with a 
particular dealer. 

The pricing of fish and seafood has been a mystery to most fishermen. The local 
dealer in Cortez sells to markets in Georgia, and as far away as New York and sometimes 
overseas. Dealers must balance the processing, storage and transportation of his product 
with the price offered at these distant markets for both fresh and frozen product. He may 
try to hedge his bets and hold out for a higher price with a frozen product. He must also 
ensure a steady supply or his buyers will look elsewhere. Therefore, he must have 
fishermen willing to sell their fish to him on a regular basis. 

Fishermen have often argued that there is collusion among fish houses to hold 
down the price offish (Maril 1983). There is rarely more than a few cents difference in 
prices paid to fishermen from one local dealer to the next. Prices have dropped in a 
matter of hours while fishermen were on the water. When they returned expecting one 
price and were told they will be paid another, tempers have flared and caused the 
dissolution of many a friendship between a dealer and a fisherman. 


The strike was over in 1945 and with the higher prices everyone was ready to 
return to work. Unfortunately, an unknown environmental phenomenon was about to 
appear for the first time. In 1947 no one had ever seen anything like it; it was called red 
tide. Dead fish were floating everywhere and they had to use nets to keep them away 
from the fish houses (Green 1985). 

Red tide is a generic term used for prolific growth of a single species of 
microscopic algae. They come in a variety of colors, but most often red and brown. 
These so-called algae blooms are often linked with eutrophication caused by excessive 
amounts of pollution from various sources including agricultural runoff, sewage 
discharge and acid rain. When suitable conditions occur these algae blooms have become 
quite large and have depleted the water of oxygen killing plant life and fish. Some red 
tide species produce neurotoxins poisoning vertebrates that ingest the algae. Invertebrates 
are not directly affected, but any person or fish that eats a contaminated invertebrate may 
develop paralytic shellfish disease. 

Shortly after the red tide had disappeared another catastrophe occurred. However, 
this one was not environmental. In 1953 the state legislature outlawed stopnetting. 
Stopnetting had become the mainstay of Cortez fishing. At its height there were from six 
to eight stopnetting crews fishing out of Cortez, each with a crew of five or six men. 
Fishermen were upset but no organized effort was undertaken to fight the decision. 
When the second red tide struck about the same time, many left fishing altogether to seek 
other employment because they saw no future in it at the time. In the same year, 
organized labor made one more appearance in Cortez when the United Packinghouse 

20 Oral history with Vernon Mora, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage, Cortez, Florida. 


Workers of America decided to expand and tried to organize Florida's fishermen. It 
failed when they hired a former seafood dealer to head the Florida organization. The 
fishermen felt he could not be trusted (Green 1985). 

Green (1985) referred to the fifties as a quiet time for Cortez; quiet with respect to 
any new challenges for the community or commercial fishing. Like the rest of the nation 
Cortez thrived from the post-war economic boom. Florida was growing rapidly as both a 
seasonal and retirement destination for millions of Americans, many of whom loved fresh 

The area surrounding Cortez was the site of many new housing subdivisions, 
especially along the bayfront. New inlets were being carved into the shoreline allowing 
subdivisions to be created in what were thought to be useless wetlands that had been 
dredged and filled. Each home had access to the water, as it was located on a narrow 
strip of land surrounded by canals. Although the new migrants liked the water and fresh 
seafood, they did not admire those who worked the water and provided the product as 

Local ordinances began to appear in the 1960's that outlawed fishing in a variety of 
settings including subdivision canals. Residents complained that fishermen were 
blocking canals making it difficult to enter or leave. Fishermen claimed they were just 
after the fish that were previously unable to hide in canals. With the support of numerous 
homeowner associations the fishermen were outnumbered and lacked the necessary 
political support; local ordinances began to appear statewide. 

Before any concerted effort was taken to challenge these new ordinances Cortez 
fishermen adapted the only way they knew; they continued to fish the canals, but late at 


night. Boat sterns were covered with carpeting so that lead lines would not make as 
much noise when nets were deployed. Engines were modified to quiet engine noise 
lessening the chances of waking residents of canal communities. Canal homeowners also 
adapted devising signaling techniques to inform neighbors of illicit fishing taking place in 
their canal. A form of class warfare had begun (Green 1985). 

It became obvious that local ordinances restricting commercial fishing were going 
to continue emerging in every part of the state. In Everglades City commercial fishermen 
were fighting something entirely different. Most were small-scale fishermen who fished 
locally. They feared a state sponsored experiment that would allow large purse seine 
boats to be used for harvesting food fish. A fisherman's wife and a fish dealer's daughter, 
Jimmie Robinson, contacted a lawyer about possible action against the large boats. In a 
car rented for her through money donated by local fishermen, she traveled the state 
collecting money to challenge the use of the large purse seines to harvest food fish. She 
raised the $3500.00 needed to hire a lawyer who successfully challenged the use of purse 
seines in court. 

In the process of raising the money for the lawyer, "Miss Jimmie" as she became 
known, set the stage for the larger association, the Organized Fishermen of Florida. 
Fishermen from Naples, Pine Island, Cortez, Sebastian, and many others had urged her to 
continue the organizing effort and form a statewide organization. They wanted an 
association that would help fight the increasingly restrictive fishing regulations around 
the state. In February of 1967 a meeting was held in Everglades City and the Organized 
Fishermen of Florida (OFF) was inaugurated. Miss Jimmie was elected to be the first 
Executive Director and immediately went to Tallahassee lobbying for the industry the 


next few years. That same year the Cortez chapter of OFF was formed with Thomas 
"Blue" Fulford as president. 

The OFF differed from previous organizations like the SIU and the UPWA in that 
it consisted of both dealers and fishermen. In addition, its mission had nothing to do with 
the price offish; it was to fight industry wide problems like local ordinances. The first 
assignment was to persuade the state legislature to make fishery regulations the 
responsibility of the state thereby voiding local ordinances. They were successful, but, a 
clause that allowed "special acts" provided for the continuation of many local ordinances. 

Still pursuing some type of statewide fisheries management, the OFF continued 
lobbying for a statewide regulatory body. In 1980 the Saltwater Fisheries Study and 
Advisory Council was formed consisting of members from the ranks of the scientific 
community, commercial fishermen, seafood industry, recreational fishermen, and 
government. By 1982 the council had completed a report and recommended the 
formation of the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission (FMFC). In 1983 the seven- 
member commission was formed with rule-making authority over marine life, excluding 
endangered species. However, all rules were to go before the governor and cabinet prior 
to becoming law. 

The OFF became an important community organization in Cortez. Fundraising by 
the chapter was often directed toward helping the community. It has become one of the 
largest chapters in the state. Cortez fishermen played major roles in the statewide 

2 'This stipulation became an important one for commercial fishermen in later years as the 
commission changed with no representation supposedly for commercial fishermen or 
recreational fishermen. Being political appointees, however, commissioners often 
favored one group or the other with the majority giving recreational fishermen an 
advantage in the debate over redfish and other rulings according to many commercial 


organization soon after its inception. One was elected President then Executive Director 

of the Organized Fishermen of Florida in 1972. He served five years before it was turned 

over to the person who was director during my stay in the village. Another Cortez 

resident served as President and Executive Vice-President for several years. He spent 

most of his time traveling the state meeting with other chapters or in Tallahassee 

lobbying. Many others from Cortez have served in elected offices and on various 


While there was concern for the rising opposition to commercial fishing other 

changes were taking place that seemed for the better. Three technological changes were 

about to revolutionize fishing in Cortez forever. The introduction of monofilament 

fishing line, fiberglass and outboard motors signaled a new beginning for the independent 

small-scale net fishermen. Prior to the introduction of these three technological 

innovations, fishing in Cortez was often an arduous task, not something to be done in an 

afternoon. Walter Bell, owner of A.P. Bell Fish Co., reflects on the differences he 

noticed in the fishing industry with the introduction of monofilament fishing line and 

fiberglass for boats: 

Together they really made a big change. Made fishermen out of farmers you might 
say, or out of people who didn't know a thing about it. And the fiberglass boats, 
that was a big change too. Because years ago we would turn our boats over and 
scrub 'em off once every week. Every Saturday afternoon that was our job, to keep 
'em light. And probably once every two or three months we would copper paint 
'em to keep the growth off. But it was spreadin' those nets every day and turnin' the 
boats over once a week and cleanin' 'em off. That was a big part of your work, and 
buildin' spreads too. As a rule we'd take a month off just about every summer to 
rebuild our spreads. As a rule we'd cut Australian Pines that were growin' around 
on the islands and keys and bring 'em in and cut 'em down and they were just right 
to dry the nets. 22 


Oral History with Walter Bell, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 

Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


When nylon was introduced in the early 1960's it meant that nets no longer had to 

be limed or spread to dry. The drudgery at the end of a long fishing day was suddenly 

gone. With monofilament handling nets became much easier for it weighed half as much 

as cotton nets. Monofilament line was revolutionary not only because it was so light, but 

also fish could not see it as well as the old cotton, linen or even nylon. Junie Mora 

describes the difference in the ability to catch fish using monofilament and the old cotton 

or nylon nets: 

It's one of the best-catchin 1 nets there is. But we used to have nylon and we had 
flax and we had cotton. And with those nets we would get out there just like I was 
tellin' ya. There'd be 3 or 4 skiffs, but we'd take in a bunch of mullet. They 
wouldn't hit them nets too good, but we'd get overboard and pull them nets around 
a little bit and the fish would hit. And we'd catch 'em and come home. But now all 
they do is take 600, 700, 800 yards of monofilament net and they go strike 'em and 
get it right up and go again. 23 

Practically all gill net being used in Cortez were made of monofilament line at the 
time of my study. Seines and some trammel nets were still made of nylon, but for gill 
nets monofilament is the line of choice. It is durable, lightweight and fish cannot detect it 
in the water as well as other net materials. Many old-timers commented that they 
detested the day it was ever invented for it was too efficient and effective. It changed the 
fishery radically by making individuals more independent and less reliant on other 
fishermen. But none have returned to fishing with nylon or cotton nets. 

Boat manufacturing was also radically changed with the introduction of fiberglass. 
Most boats prior to the introduction of fiberglass were of wood plank construction; many 
were built in Cortez by boat builders like Neriah Taylor of Taylor's Boatworks or Earl 

Oral History with Junie Mora, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 



Guthrie at Ball's Boatways. Cortez native Raymond Guthrie recalls those early boat 

But the first boats they built, like I say, were natural crooks and they were about 
two foot apart all the way down the length of the boat. About 18 foot. Built those 
things for 40 dollars and finally went to 50 dollars. But that was some 
workmanship. Those old timers would put a board up there and it looked like it 
had growed there. They had a caulkin' iron, but they would have to force it into that 
crack to caulk it. 24 

Because no power tools were used in manufacturing these early boats 
resourcefulness was essential. Natural crooks were curved limbs sawed from cedar trees 
that conformed to the natural lines of the boat. Using naturally occurring curves, these 
side supports were stronger than those that had to be formed by steaming and bending 
them. Planks were placed with a small space between them to allow for expansion when 
they were placed in the water. As they expanded they formed a watertight seal. Some of 
the early plank boats built in the 1930's still exist in the village. An early donkey boat 
built by Neriah Taylor is on display at the Taylor Boatworks. 

Fiberglass changed several aspects of boat building and maintenance. Because it 
was lighter, plywood could now be used in the construction with fiberglass laid over it for 
strength and waterproofing. Boats were much lighter and maintenance was greatly 
reduced. Boats no longer had to be removed from the water and scrubbed every week 
and holes were quickly patched with more fiberglass. When combined with outboard 
motors the transformation was complete. 

Outboard motors were introduced in the 1950's, but never had much of an impact 
on the commercial fishery until the early 1970's when "kicker boats" were introduced. In 

24 Oral History with Raymond Guthrie, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


the West central part of the state they are called "bird dog boats" and in the panhandle 
they are referred to as "tunnel boats". The design placed an outboard motor near the bow 
of the boat, inside a well cut through the flooring, rather than on the stern. It allowed 
them to steer from the bow, which offered a better view of the water and fish. 

Tower platforms, which were raised off the deck by three or four feet, were later 
used to improve the ability to sight bunches offish. Another benefit of placing the motor 
forward was that it removed the motor and prop from path of the net as it runs off the 
stern of the boat when encircling a group offish in what is referred to as a "compass." 
Kicker boats had a shallower draft than other boats. By trimming the motor these boats 
were able to travel in water less than a foot deep. At the same time steering was made 
more difficult and at high speeds and with the wrong weight distribution it becomes 
dangerous as the vessel can easily flip over. 

With the introduction of kicker boats, fishing with gillnets became a one and two 

man operation. No longer was there any need for large crews. With a monofilament net 

and a fast kicker boat one could travel from one end of the bay to the other in an 

afternoon or night. The old timers had dire predictions for the industry once these new 

innovations appeared, as Junie Mora recalls: 

Yeah, and you know what was amazin' to me was that they stayed here like that. I 
mean, it's a wonder that the older men at that time let 'em stay. They'd tell ya right 
then, when they seen the kicker boat comin', that's gonna be the end of your fishin'. 
I remember Tink Fulford said it. There's a guy from Fort Myers, that's where they 
originated from, a lot of 'em. And one of 'em was up here one day and he said, "I'm 
gonna tell you this is one of the few spots there's no kicker boats." He said, "Don't 
let 'em come in here because if they do, they're gonna run you out of business. 
They really make it bad." Finally, a guy come in here with one and nobody said 
nothin' about it and then there's another one and another one, and now everybody 


around here has got 'em. But everybody that's got 'em will tell ya, it's the worst 
thing on fish that's ever been. 25 

The technological transformation to monofilament gill nets and fiberglass boats 

with outboard motors had both its advantages and its disadvantages. Fishermen clearly 

recognized the advantage that these new technologies brought to their fishing operations. 

They could catch more fish, faster and do it with fewer people. However, there were also 

immediate concerns about what impact this new technology would have on fish stocks. 

But the two really co-existed very well. When I started fishin' there were still a lot 
of gill-netters around. I did a lot of gill-nettin' myself after I quit fishin' with Uncle 
Tink. But I never saw where one got in the other's way. The way they gill-netted 
in those days, why you could fish all day long before a man was gonna run his 
stop-nets that night. And it wouldn't make any difference. The man would still 
catch fish. The way they do it now it would be a problem indeed because they've 
got these kicker boats that they buzz all over the flats with and what they dont 
catch in nets they chop the heads off or scare 'em to death or run 'em in a hole so 
they don't come out for a couple of weeks. 

Another important event would soon change the way some lived their lives. The 
more powerful motors and faster boats provided an advantage to some Cortez fishermen 
who were seeking a relatively new species offish, one that was worth a great deal more 
than the lowly mullet, commonly called "square grouper" or marijuana. 

The 1970's were trying times for the village. Florida's coastline was becoming a 
frequent destination for drug smugglers from the Caribbean, South and Central America. 
Cortez fishermen, like others from the Gulf Coast were being recruited into a highly 
profitable but risky business. They had the perfect cover and important knowledge. 
They worked at night, they knew the local waters and they could travel in extremely 

25 Oral History with Junie Mora, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 

26 Oral history with Blue Fulford, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute foi 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


shallow water. They were very familiar with law enforcement authorities and their 
routines, i.e., Coast Guard, Marine Patrol, Sheriffs patrol, etc. 

Several Cortez villagers became heavily involved in drug trafficking and were 
caught. The largest drug bust in Florida at one time involved a Cortez fisherman; others 
were involved but were never indicted. As more and more Cortez fishermen became 
involved in the drug trade, some community members became concerned and decided to 
take a stand. 

Sue Maddox had seen too many people hurt by the increasing drug trade in her 

village. She decided when a local fisherman was killed in an accident clearly a result of 

his taking drugs to take some action: 

Because nobody else was. I think the final straw was when we counted seven drug- 
related deaths in this two-block by six-block area in just two or three years. And 
the last one was Harold Garntow and he was about 26-27. He fished out of Bell's 
and he was killed in a boating accident that would not have happened if he hadn't 
been using drugs. I thought about buying flowers but then I thought no, I'll just 
hire a billboard. So I hired a port-a-sign with the message that "Smugglers are 
killing our kids. I care, do you?" I think was the exact wording. 

I told the sign owner that there might be some damage to his sign but I would pay. 
I expected some kids to throw a rock or two at it. He brought the sign in about 
noontime and at ten that night I was back in the kitchen watching TV and I heard a 
popping sound. I thought well, the kids are throwing rocks at the sign. So I went 
to the front of the house just in time to see flames leap about 30 feet in the air. 
They had dragged it out into the street and doused it with gasoline. I saw all these 
little legs running south from the flaming sign. 27 

She continued her protest around the village with handheld signs. One particular 
protest focused on a new restaurant that was opening at the west end of the village. She 
was convinced that the individual who undertook the new venture had built the business 

" Oral History with Sue Maddox, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


with drug money. Her first protest was a lonely vigil, as she stood alone at the entrance 
to the restaurant. The next one tripled in size when her sister and Mary Green joined her. 
Although the protests seemed of little consequence they did generate publicity with the 
local news media publishing several stories about Cortez and the drug traffic. 

Later, indictments were handed down for several Cortez residents who served time 
in prison for their illegal activities. Although her protests seemed ineffectual at the time, 
Sue believes that the publicity generated helped to stimulate more interest by the 
authorities, which eventually brought a halt to most of the drug traffic in Cortez. 

Encroachment on the Village 

In 1978 plans for a high-rise condominium on the north side of highway 684 in 
Cortez, just beyond the marina were made public. Wyman Coarsey, postmaster from 
Cortez, spearheaded the opposition to the development, which was very near his home. 
The county approved the development despite inadequate fire protection and traffic 
hazards that were brought up. County commissioners said later that promoters of the 
project deceived them. Fortunately, the developer ran into financial troubles and was 
unable to start any part of the project other than getting it approved. The county changed 
its zoning regulations and required special permits to build multi-family residential 
housing on commercial property soon after (Green 1985). 

That same year Manatee County proposed village zoning for Cortez, Myakka City, 
Parrish and Rubonia. It was decided that these traditional communities needed special 
protection and village zoning would do that. Meetings were held by county officials in 
each community to explain the proposal. When questioned as to how this new zoning 
regulation would empower the local citizenry, officials could only answer that the county 
still had final authority with regard to zoning decisions. With that, the citizens of Cortez 


decided they would be no better off with village zoning. County officials were 
perplexed. It seemed to them that Cortez did not want protection. On the other hand 
residents of Cortez did not trust the county and felt that another option could give them 
power to determine their own fate. Eventually a Cortez Area Plan was created in 1983 
which limited development for the entire Cortez Peninsula to ten units per acre and no 
higher than three stories over parking (Green 1985). 

The year before the Cortez Area Plan was created another condominium project 
was being planned, this time behind the Cortez School. Wyman Coarsey led the fight 
again for two years and again the proposed development was dropped. Eventually all 
plans were cancelled because of financial problems. Either luck or persistence was on 
the side of Cortez residents. 

The Cortez Village Historical Society (CVHS) was formed in 1985. A daughter of 
Walton "Tink" Fulford owner of Fulford Fish Company headed the group. She had 
returned to the area living near Cortez, when her husband retired from the service. She 
became very active in village affairs and spearheaded a campaign to focus on local 
history and genealogy. Her son, Ben Green, wrote Finest Kind, a history of Cortez and 
commercial fishing which characterized the trials and tribulations of this fishing 
community for most of a century. The historical society received a Florida Endowment 
for the Humanities grant and conducted a small survey for the purpose of creating a local 
genealogical publication. Today, the historical society provides tours of the community 
during Heritage Week, publishes a newsletter and holds boat rides for fundraising every 
winter. The daughter of the fish house owner has continued to be an officer in the 


historical society and recently ran for County Commissioner. She was not elected to the 
commission but continued her efforts to bring recognition to her home village. 

In 1986 Chris Craft introduced plans to build a recreational boat showroom and 
marina in Cortez. Land had been purchased from Cortez native Natalie Mora on the west 
end of the village just beyond the Albion Inn (now the U.S. Coast Guard Station). The 
plans for the development were made public at a County Commission meeting. Three or 
four residents from Cortez at that meeting spoke out against those plans. They initially 
challenged the development on the basis that the docking facilities would extend into the 
channel and inhibit the flow of boat traffic. Many felt that the pleasure boat manufacturer 
was too powerful and any attempt to halt the development was futile. They were wrong. 
Shortly after that meeting the director of the Village Historical Society began a campaign 
to stop Chris Craft. With increasing pressure from the community of Cortez, the County 
Commission withheld certain key permits, which were crucial to the completion of the 
project. Plans for the showroom and marina were dropped. Chris Craft returned the land 
to Natalie Mora who still owns the land minus her home, which was razed shortly after 
Chris Craft made the purchase. 

Contemporary Cortez 

Today, for the most part the historic village of Cortez (Figure 4-1) is situated to the 
south of state road 684 (Cortez Road). Except for along the waterfront, land to the north 
of the highway has historically been agricultural. Much of it remains so today, as do 
many parcels to the east of the village. This land has played an important role for the 
village in that it has served as a buffer to the urban sprawl from the city of Bradenton and 
isolating Cortez to a certain extent. 


Figure 4- 1 . Historic Village of Cortez South of Cortez Road. 

Retail businesses along Cortez Road include: two restaurants, an ice cream parlor, 
two recreational boat dealers, a grocery, a surf shop, two mobile home parks, a 
veterinarian, a canvas maker, a rental business, a laundromat, a beauty parlor and Post 
Office. At the southeast end of the village at the foot of the bridge to the barrier islands is 
a charter boat operation. Across the highway and to the north are a bait shop, restaurant 
and boatslips. Condominium and marina developments are situated to the north of the 
restaurant on the waterfront. Although there are many residences on the north side of 
Cortez Road, it is often not considered part of the historic village. Indeed, the recent 
National Register district nomination does not extend to the north of Cortez Road. Some 
longtime residents on the north side have taken offense in that they are not considered 
part of the village. 

There are few residences typical of the village located on the highway so the visual 
character of the village is not readily apparent from the road. The village consists of 


approximately 200 dwellings and is classified multiple use, however most are single- 
family dwellings generally described as "cracker style" architecture. 

In 1991 the waterfront in Cortez had four working fish houses. One of those was 
essentially a retail outlet while the others are primarily wholesale operations. The largest, 
A.P. Bell had 30 full-time employees and approximately 100 fishermen connected to the 
operation with over half of those prosecuting the inshore fisheries. Fulford Fish Co. 28 
had 1-3 part-time employees and 12 fishermen, all of which fish inshore, while Sigma 
International employed 3 full-time with 25 fishermen. During the fall run season each 
fish house will double the number of employees in order to handle the large catches of 
roe mullet. The remaining waterfront property is occupied by the charter boat operation, 
one of the trailer courts, the U.S. Coast Guard station, private residences, and a now 
defunct fish house and restaurant complex. 

Extending West from Cortez Harbor to Tidy Island and South to the Audubon 
Rookery is the shallow body of water called the "Kitchen" for its ability to provide a 
continuous supply of scallops and other seafood to village residents during lean times like 
the Depression. In addition, the ruins of historic net camps remain in the harbor and have 
important symbolic meaning to many Cortesians. 

Cortez's waterfront has become especially vulnerable to land-based development 
pressures given today's strict regulations placed on the harvesting offish by the Florida 
Marine Fisheries Commission (FMFC). Reallocation of marine resources has put 

8 The Fulford Fish Co. closed its doors in 1993 when Ralph Fulford, son of Walton 
Fulford, retired from the business. It was quickly leased by the A.P. Bell Fish Co. and 
continues to be used as an unloading facility for small boats. This fish house represents 
the last vestige of the type of fishing that has been the mainstay for Cortez fishermen: 
small scale net fishing. Both the A.P. Bell Fish Co. and Sigma International convey a 
certain industrial character that seems out of place in such a small community. 


commercial fishermen at a disadvantage and now challenges their survival on the water 
(Smith and Jepson 1993). Not only do commercial fishermen themselves feel threatened 
due to economic pressures, but fish houses also face a bleak future with a reduction in 
supply and shrinking markets as they are unable to provide a consistent supply offish. 
While Cortez has resisted development forces in the past, today it is the combination of 
waterfront re-development and denial of access to resources that threatens not only the 
livelihood, but also the very identity of some Cortesians. 

Two recent events have played a key role in generating concern for the village's 
future. The first was the destruction of the Albion Inn by the U. S. Coast Guard. This 
late nineteenth century hotel had been the Regional headquarters for the Coast Guard 
since the 1970s. In its early years the hotel had an illustrious career, drawing tourists 
from all walks of life. Some of the more famous included John and Mabel Ringling, of 
circus fame, who would often sail their yacht to Cortez for Sunday dinner at the Inn. 
Although local activists argued for the historical significance of the hotel, the Coast 
Guard razed the building in 1991. 

Through the efforts of the Cortez Village Historical Society and other concerned 
residents part of this historic structure, Burton's Store, was saved. Prior to removal, 
Burton's Store/Post Office was one of the oldest structures still standing on Sarasota Bay. 
Now in storage near the A.P. Bell Fish Co., the building is being stabilized until a 
suitable site in the village can be located for a proposed museum. 

The second threat came from a planned 65 ft. high fixed span bridge on Cortez 
Road to replace the existing drawbridge to the islands. Proponents for the bridge claimed 
it was necessary to replace the drawbridge in order to alleviate congested traffic during 


the peak tourist seasons, especially in the case of an emergency evacuation. Opponents 
maintained that the proposed bridge would extend well into Cortez Village preventing 
easy access to other parts of the village. In addition, they asserted that the majority of 
traffic was destined for Longboat Key and an alternative location for the larger bridge 
should be considered. The opposing forces succeeded in delaying any decision regarding 
the bridge with its removal from the county's five-year plan. However, many felt that 
continued pressure from pro-development forces outside of Cortez would renew the 
bridge issue after the upcoming election. 

Earlier episodes involving the sale and redevelopment of waterfront property have 
threatened the character of the village. The plan for the aforementioned recreational boat 
showroom on vacant waterfront property was one. Another related event concerned the 
expansion of one fish house that was defeated due to the perceived impacts of increased 
truck traffic. The expansion was moved to another location taking with it increased 
employment opportunities. The significance of this last example is the division among 
several factions that still exists within the village over jobs lost. 

The threat that had the most potential to impact the community was the petition 
circulated to ban net fishing in Florida during the 1994 ballot. A coalition of several 
recreational fishing groups called their campaign the Save Our Sealife (SOS). The 
Florida Conservation Association (FCA), a recreational fishing lobby group, was the 
major proponent in the drive to ban nets. Articles, which focused on particular cases of 
questionable or illegal commercial fishing activity, appeared monthly in the publication 
the Florida Sportsman. It was claimed that commercial fishermen were under-regulated, 
were depleting stocks and were responsible for the killing of protected and endangered 


species like dolphin and sea turtles. In addition, the increased revenue that would come 
from an entire recreational inshore fishery justified the ban on commercial nets. 

Commercial fishermen claimed that the environmental issues identified by the SOS 
were being addressed through regulation and better enforcement. They also pointed out 
that although recreational fishermen catch fish one by one, they have had a greater impact 
on fish stocks than the commercial fishery. And they cautioned that as food providers, 
fresh seafood would be a scarce commodity if the ban were successful. 

The initiative generated enough signatures in July 1993 to be placed on the ballot 
for the November election. Compensation for commercial fishermen if the ban passed 
was discussed in Tallahassee, the state capital, during the spring of 1994 but did not make 
the agenda for legislative debate. 

Attempts to organize resistance to the aforementioned threats to the community and 
the bid by sport fishing interests to ban inshore netting produced a coalition consisting of 
the local historical society (CVHS), the local chapter of the commercial fishermen's 
organization (OFF) and other village activists. A non-profit organization, the Florida 
Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) was formed in 1991 to study the feasibility of 
establishing a Maritime Cultural Center in Cortez. This association was a direct result of 
the fight to save the Albion Inn. The original charter established seats on the board of 
directors for representatives from the local Organized Fishermen of Florida, the Cortez 
Village Historical Society, the County Historical Commission and several residents of the 
village. A local artist/historian was named the director of the Maritime Cultural Center, a 
title that was not a part of the board of directors. However, this individual became the 
unofficial head of the organization and undertook most of the daily operation. 


With a grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation the feasibility study 
produced a document outlining the plans and preferred sites in the village for the 
Maritime center. This document was the centerpiece for the director's efforts to stabilize 
Cortez's waterfront and maintain its sense of community (Eshelman et al. 1992). 

The coalition was not strong and the representatives for the Cortez Village 
Historical Society soon resigned from the board of directors due to differing opinions as 
to the primary focus of the organization. The seats were filled by a husband and wife 
whose main interests were to support the musical traditions of the village, but were part 
of CVHS. FISH remained active and received a Florida Humanities Council grant to 
document the folk traditions of the village. Support for the new organization from the 
local chapter of the Organized Fishermen of Florida was weak as most of the membership 
of that organization wanted monies spent on efforts to stop the net ban initiative. 
Because it might jeopardize its non-profit status, FISH was unable to participate in direct 
efforts to oppose the net ban. The organization was beginning to be seen as another 
historical society for the village. In fact, many people, including residents, were 
confused as to who was doing what with regard to the preservation of Cortez. It was 
clear that during fundraising many people thought the two organizations were one and the 
same and that money given to either group would help both. This was not the case as 
FISH and CVHS were beginning to diverge, as the two leaders grew increasingly 
intolerant of one another. 


Fishing communities like Cortez are "natural resource communities" where work 
habits and social life revolve around seasonal cycles offish, not the seasonal arrival or 
departure of tourists. Like other natural resource communities, everyday life is 
intrinsically connected to the rhythm of nature. For generations, there has been an 
intimate relationship between daily living and the marine environment. Changes in 
weather or phases of the moon that affect the tides and marine life govern fishermen's 
work and social activity. Other environmental phenomenon, like red tide or hurricanes, 
has a dramatic effect upon village economy, home life, and ultimately survival. 
Residents frequently have close kinship ties to one another with several generations 
living within the same community. 

Cortez fishermen historically fished a small-boat net fishery in inland and coastal 
waters. With the introduction of new fishing gear and techniques much of that changed. 
Where fishing was once a family affair with a crew of related individuals, new 
lightweight nets and powerful motors have made it more of an individual endeavor. In 
the past, most lived in the village and would walk to the water to work on boats that were 
docked where they sold their fish. Their daily social life took place on the docks where 
they would sit on benches and tell stories or discuss the day's catch as they offloaded 
their fish. Rising property values and taxes as a result of the growing population that 
continually intrudes upon their village has forced young fishermen to live elsewhere and 



drive to their former home to work. The combined changes had a dramatic impact on 
fishing practices and the social life of the village. 

The Fishery and Fishermen 
Depending upon the fish being sought, fishermen in Cortez use various types of 
net: gill nets, trammel nets, seine nets and cast nets. Gill nets made of monofilament 
nylon, of which the "strike net" or "runaround" gill net was most common, vary in length 
and depth. The "mesh" size determines what size fish will be caught and depends upon 
what type of species is being sought. Most all configurations of a net are regulated by 
law, i.e., type of material, length, height, mesh size, etc. 

Figure 5-1. Gill Net Configuration. 

The runaround gill net has floats commonly called "corks" on top which keep the 
net floating on top the water (Figure 5-1). Lead weights at the bottom, referred to as the 
"leadline," keep the base of the net on the bottom of the bay so fish cannot swim 


underneath. As fish swim through the net the larger fish become entangled and cannot 
back out because their gills will often prevent them from escaping. Smaller fish swim 
through and are not impeded. 

Most fishermen use small gill net boats that have a crew of two or three including 
the captain. These boats are usually not over thirty feet in length but will frequently carry 
nets of over 1,000 yards. Called "kicker boats," the engine is placed toward the front of 
the vessel, just behind where the captain steers and watches for fish. The net is in the rear 
as seen in Figure 5.2 where it can easily drop out the back of the boat and not become 
entangled in the engine prop after throwing the "let go" into the water. The "let go" is a 
weight that is tied to one end of the net with a short rope. The captain or crew holds onto 
the "let go" and once a "bunch" offish are sighted, the captain signals for the let go to be 
thrown into the water. 

Once the "let go" has been thrown, the captain pushes the throttle to full speed as 
he encircles the fish several times with the net. Once the fish are encircled, he shuts off 
the engine and waits while the fish became entangled in the net. In some cases a 
crewmember or the captain might beat the side of the boat to scare the fish into the net. 
Once the fish are gilled, the net is "roped" back into the boat. As the net is dragged into 
the back of the boat, the fish are pulled from the net, placed in the "fish box", and 
covered with ice. In some cases, if the captain is fishing alone or there is an 
exceptionally large catch, the fish are left in the net and the net is cleared back at the fish 
house, as was the case in Figure 5-2. 

This was the primary method used for fishing mullet year round. Although during 
the roe season another crew member might be added to handle the increased landings. 


Almost every fisherman in Cortez at one time or another fished for mullet. The mullet 
fishery had been the primary source of income in the past and for many fishermen it 
remained so, especially during the roe season when prices increased dramatically to 
supply the Asian markets. This lucrative Asian market would become one of the focal 
point for the net ban campaign. 

Figure 5-2. Net Fisherman and his Kicker with Mullet in Net. 

For some species, like pompano and Spanish mackerel, a specialized gill net is used 
which is shorter than the "strike net." Called "set nets," these nets are outfitted with 
smaller floats and have anchor weights tied to each end. This allows the net to float 
below the water line. Fish that migrate up and down the shoreline are entangled, as they 
are unable to see the monofilament netting. This type of net is often set perpendicular to 
the shoreline and is fished passively, which means that the net is set and the fisherman 
does nothing more than wait for an hour or two and sometimes longer before picking it 
up. This period of time between setting the net and picking it up is what has made this 


type of gear a target of many environmental groups and others. It is during this time that 
many species, often non-targeted species, can drown in the net. This is especially true for 
high-seas drift gill nets that are left for much longer periods of time before picking them 
up. Although none of the Cortez fishermen used this type of net, an association was 
made during the Save Our Sealife (SOS) campaign to implicate Florida fishermen in the 
deaths of endangered or protected species. This type of net was most often used in 
Federal waters and would not be affected by the net ban campaign, yet was a good source 
of propaganda for the recreational fishing interest groups. Furthermore, the FMFC began 
to introduce tending laws that required fishermen to stay with their nets and placed time 
limits on "soaking" or how long the net was in the water. These laws made it more 
unlikely that Florida's inshore fishermen would kill endangered or protected species. 

Trammel nets are different from gill nets in that there are two outer walls of larger 
mesh built into the net. These nets allow for a larger range in size offish to be caught as 
the smaller mesh entangles some fish while the larger mesh allows big fish to push the 
smaller mesh through the larger mesh forming a pocket in which it becomes enclosed. 
While it is very time consuming extracting fish from a gill net, a trammel net is even 
more so since there is more webbing with which to become entangled. Trammel nets 
were not commonly used during my stay in Cortez and if they were used it was by older 

One fisherman remembers using trammel nets in earlier days: 

Well, we used trammel net in those days. Old cotton trammel net. They had 6/20, 
9/20 and 1 2/20 twines. The higher the number, the bigger the twine. Most of the 
time we used 6/20, make the trammel net with inside walls would be 4 1/4 inches I 
think is what it was and the trammel walls themselves, the outside nets, were about 
10 inches. And you'd just find the fish and run that net around 'em. It would catch 
all sizes. He had some old heavy 12/20 like that that we'd use to catch everything if 


we was join' where there was a lot of big blue fish. We called 'em bank loafer 
pompano. Four or five pounders. They'd just take up on a place and hang there 
with it till somebody caught 'em or run 'em off. 30 

Figure 5-3. Trammel Net Configuration. 

There were a few large net boats in Cortez that ranged in size from 45 to 60 feet in 
length. These vessels carried longer nets and were often used in the mackerel fisheries 
nearshore and offshore, but would occasionally be used for mullet during roe season. 
They traveled farther and could follow migratory fish from the Keys to the Panhandle. A 
fisherman once commented that these larger vessels were financed through the drug trade 
during the 1970's and were largely responsible for the decline in mackerel during that 
same decade. 

The aforementioned nets are all entanglement nets and were the primary focus of 
the SOS campaign. Although the amendment would affect other fisheries, like bait 


Oral history with Blue Fulford, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


shrimp, entanglement nets were the center of attention. But, fishermen from Cortez had 
expanded their repertoire of fishing practices over the years to include larger vessels and 
a variety of gear types to fish for shrimp, both food and bait and offshore species like reef 

Seine nets have a much smaller mesh size since the fish do not become entangled in 
the net, but held within the circle of net. These nets are manufactured of heavier gauge 
braided nylon. Haul seines were used more commonly in Cortez in earlier days. It was 
fished with larger crews and several boats, including boats to haul the net that were often 
towed behind the larger launch. The net is set with one end near the shoreline as the net 
is run out into the surf or bay encircling the fish taking the other end of the net back to the 
shore. The net is pulled from both ends back onto the shore. Some haul seines have bags 
sewn into the middle of the net into which the fish swim, as the net is pulled closer to the 
shore. Haul seines are labor intensive taking several crew to pull the net. Some 
fishermen on Florida's East coast use hydraulic winches mounted on the front of pickup 
trucks to haul their nets in when fishing on the beach even today. But, for the most part, 
this labor-intensive fishing method was abandoned for the lighter and easier to handle gill 

Purse seines are used primarily in the baitfish fishery. These seines are constructed 
of the same material as other seines, but unlike others the purse seine has a rope laced 
through the bottom line along with lead weights. When both ends are pulled the net 
purses, closing it like a large pouch. The net itself is hauled into the boat with hydraulic 
pulleys making the pouch smaller and smaller, concentrating the fish so they can then be 
dipped out of the purse seine and into the hold on the boat. Thread herring and Spanish 


sardines were the mainstay of the bait fishery for Cortez fishermen. Once offloaded, the 
baitfish were boxed and sold to bait and tackle shops for use in the recreational fishery. 
Although this fishery provided a good source of bait for recreational fishermen, it 
became the target of recreational fishing interests groups as they lobbied the FMFC to 
push the fishery outside of state waters. It was their claim that baitfish had declined 
enough to affect other species for which they were an important food source. The FMFC 
did eventually place restrictions on the bait seine fishery allowing it to operate outside of 
a line three miles from shore. This became particularly onerous as baitfish would 
sometimes remain inside the three mile line depending upon environmental conditions 
forcing fishermen to either wait for fish to come out or cross inside the line and fish 
illegally. It would become a constant source of tension between enforcement officials 
and fishermen as baitfish moved in and outside of the line. 

As mentioned earlier, other types of fishing vessels in Cortez included bait 
shrimpers, offshore shrimpers and reef fish vessels. Bait shrimpers fished inshore waters, 
primarily in the bays catching small shrimp to be sold live to bait and tackle shops. There 
were two vessels in Cortez and both were between 20- 30 feet in length with nets less 
than twenty feet in width. Shrimp nets are typically pulled from outriggers that extend 
from the side of the vessel and are dragged along the bottom scooping up shrimp and 
whatever else is in their path. After towing the nets for a short time, they are emptied 
onto a sorting table where the shrimp are separated from everything else and placed in 
aerated tanks. Again placed in aerated tanks on the docks after offloading, they are later 
transported to their destination in trucks with similar aeration equipment. Bait shrimpers 
make nightly trips for a few hours and often fish alone or with one other crewmember. 


Although bait shrimping was not a primary target of the net ban campaign, 
fishermen, both recreational and commercial, have been suspect of the effect this type of 
fishing may have on the bottom. Many have questioned the impact on seagrasses and 
other important nursery habitat as nets are dragged along the bottom. 

There were two vessels in Cortez which fished for shrimp offshore. These shrimp 
vessels were from 50 to 80 ft. in length. Offshore shrimp vessels usually have a hull 
made of steel, wood or fiberglass and will pull either two or four otter trawl depending 
upon the size of the vessel and its towing capacity. They fish well offshore and are often 
away from port for several days, sometimes up to a month. The catch can range from a 
few hundred pounds to several thousand if they are lucky. 

Offshore shrimping would not be affected by the proposed SOS amendment 
However, an important association was going to be made with this type of fishing during 
the net ban campaign. Like bait shrimping, offshore shrimping is indiscriminate in its 
catch and at times has a very high "bycatch." Bycatch is everything else that is caught in 
the net other than shrimp. This "bycatch" became the primary focus for two important 
gear modifications required on all offshore shrimp gear: turtle excluder devices and 
bycatch reduction devices. All shrimp vessels in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic, 
whether in state or federal waters are required to have these two devices in their nets. 
Bait shrimpers are excluded from these rules because their tow times are of short duration 
and are not likely to drown other species. Even with these devices, bycatch in the 
offshore shrimp fishery can be very high with a ratio of bycatch to shrimp as high as ten 
to one. It was this figure that was to be used during the net ban campaign implying that 
the net ban would stop such a practice, when in fact; it would have no impact whatsoever. 


While Cortez fishermen historically participated in a small boat gillnet fishery, in 
the 1980s there was a move by one fish house to pursue other species offshore, primarily 
reef fish. By the early 1990s there were approximately 15 vessels that worked in this 
fishery from Cortez and that particular fish house became an important dealer in that 
species group. 

There are two primary methods of fishing used by reef fish vessels. Most reef fish 
vessels in Cortez use long line gear. Long lining is a method of fishing whereby a heavy 
gauge nylon main fishing line that has thousands of baited hooks attached to it with 
lighter gauge nylon is laid out on the ocean floor. The line is wound onto a large drum 
from which it is pulled when being set. The line is weighted so that it sits on the bottom 
of the sea floor. Floats or buoys are tied on either or both ends to assist in locating the 
line after it has been set. Some large buoys have flashing lights and large metal fins to 
make it easier to locate at night with radar. The main line can be as long as 5 miles 
depending on the size of the vessel. 

The other method of fishing for reef fish is called "bandit reels." This method of 
fishing consists of electric or hydraulic fishing reels with enough line and heavy weights 
to drop several hundred feet to the reef structure below. Each line has several hooks 
attached that are baited prior to dropping down the line. The line is left for a period of 
time that can be several minutes to a half an hour before reeling up the line. Fish are 
taken off the hooks and placed in holds with ice after being gutted. 

Reef fish vessels spend up to a week on the water. The conditions on board are 
very austere as crew quarters are rninimal when compared to large offshore shrimp 
vessels which are often more accommodating. The majority, if not all, of the vessels in 


Cortez were owned by the fish house and run by hired crew. Most native Cortez 
fishermen did not participate in either fishery to any great extent. In fact, most of the 
crew aboard these vessels were itinerant fishermen who often suffered from either drug 
or alcohol abuse. Their home was usually the vessel they were crewing on at the time. 
The appearance of the sheriffs department at the docks was a frequent source of 
displeasure among native Cortesians. 

Fishermen have historically feuded over gear types and Cortez fishermen were no 
exception as discussed earlier. It was not readily apparent but there were divisions 
among those who worked the offshore fisheries and the inshore. Most captains and crew 
in the offshore fisheries were younger and often not native to the village. There was no 
open hostility, but inshore fishermen would often express their disdain for offshore 
fishing. This may have been due to the longer trip lengths as inshore fishermen were 
home every night or day. They wanted to be home to spend time with their families. The 
offshore crew did not have family and would spend their time on shore at bars or drinking 
alcohol they carried with them around the village. The image of fishermen carrying beer 
to the dock was not appreciated by many Cortesians. 

The division between those who fished offshore and those who fished inshore was 
more complicated than merely the distance from shore that one fished. It represented 
divergent views of community and values associated with what the community should be. 
Those who fished offshore and with larger vessels were embracing the wave of the 
future. They saw growth in the industry as a good thing and they tended to not support 
compromises with fishery managers. They seemed to show less attachment to the 
community. This division included fishermen who lived in the village and/or had close 


kinship ties to many others living there and may or may not fish offshore. It also 
included division along religious lines. As mentioned earlier, the two primary churches 
in the village were fundamental Christian churches and the descendants of many of those 
who had migrated from North Carolina were members. There were other families in the 
village that had kinship ties to the Spanish and were Catholic. These differences were 
rarely mentioned but the division was clear when certain issues, like fisheries 
management or expanding the scope or size offish houses, became a matter of debate 
within the community. 

At the Fish House 

Mullet are an oily fish, which contributes to a relatively short shelf life. The oils in 
the flesh breakdown quickly which make freezing mullet impractical for long-term 
storage. Therefore, they are quickly transported to markets in the round (head and tail 
on). Smoked mullet is a local specialty and can be found in most seafood retail outlets. 
It is rarely offered on restaurant menus, but "mullet wagons" are often parked in the 
village or around the area selling this regional fare. Mullet has a dark flesh and the taste 
is somewhat more "fishy," in contrast to more popular fish like grouper or even 
mackerels. Nevertheless, although the reputation of this fish made it less appealing to 
some, it was largely responsible for the development of the Cortez commercial 

In 1991 there were three working fish houses and one retail fish market on the 
Cortez waterfront: A.P. Bell Fish Co.; Fulford Fish Co.; Sigma, International; and Star 
Fish (Figure 5-4). A.P. Bell Fish Co. employed approximately 30 full time employees 
and had approximately 100 fishermen associated with their operation. Fulford Fish Co. 
had a much smaller workforce with only 3 part-time employees not including the owner 


with 12 fishermen. Sigma International had 3 fulltime employees and approximately 25 
fishermen connected with that operation. The Bayshore fish house at the western end of 
the village was unoccupied and had been vacant for several years. 

A.P. Bell Fish Company was the largest operation with both offshore and inshore 
vessels which included offshore shrimp trawlers; reef fish vessels, commonly called 
grouper boats (both longline and bandit reel); purse seine vessels; and the smaller gill net 
kicker boats. Sigma was the next largest operation with several purse seine vessels 
pursuing baitfish and some larger gill net boats. They also unloaded many smaller gill 
net boats during the roe season. The Fulford fish house was a traditional operation and 
off loaded only small gill net vessels. The offloading dock was low, close to the shore 
and would not accommodate the larger vessels. It had no freezers so fish were iced in 
coolers prior to being shipped off to markets in larger urban areas and Georgia. Sigma 
International was owned by Asian interests and was primarily involved in the roe fishery, 
but also offloaded several purse seine boats for bait fish. Their main office was in St. 

The small gill net boats hold a few hundred pounds of mullet. They carry some ice 
and fish are often left on the floor covered with ice and a tarp or placed in a large cooler 
with ice. In the event of an exceptionally large catch or if the weather forces an early 
return, the net may be cleared at the dock as mentioned earlier (see earlier Figure 5-2). 
One or two trips are made daily and depending upon the species being fished, regulations, 
and the season. For some species, like mackerel, fishermen may fish at night looking for 
a phosphorescence glow in the water as the fish swim by, referred to as the flash. 


Once at the dock fish are offloaded and weighed. Fishermen may assist with this 
process or let dock personnel weigh the fish and pack them in the freezer. This depends 
on how much the fisherman trusts those working at the fish house. In some cases, after a 
long night of fishing, a fisherman may dock his boat and ask to have it unloaded while he 
goes home to catch up on his sleep. He may come down later to the fish house and 
"settle up" which means he can either get cash for his catch or put the day's catch toward 
any expenses he has with the fish house. Most fishermen, however, settle up at the end of 
the week. 

Bridge to Anna Maria 

Figure 5-4. Cortez Village with Location of Fish Houses. 

Once the fish have been offloaded at the dock they are kept in freezers or insulated 
cooler rooms in boxes with ice. They are kept there for a short while and are later 
removed, gutted, and cleaned, if needed, prior to shipping to other wholesale or retail 
buyers. During roe season fish are quickly gutted and the roe is packed and shipped. The 
carcass is also packed and shipped to fresh markets, or is sold for bait. 


As mentioned earlier most of the fish houses have a small full time work force, but 
employ more workers on a part time basis. That work is determined most often by the 
seasonal abundance offish. Both young and old (See Figure 5-5) and often minorities 
supply part time labor. The roe season is when most locals are employed part time, as 
fish are gutted quickly after offloading and the roe is packed and shipped to other 

This seasonal and varied workforce is an important part of many natural resource 
communities. It requires a very flexible and sometimes sizable workforce that is not 
permanently employed. Therefore, Cortez may have a sizable number of individuals who 
at any one time have little or nothing to do, whether they are retired, in school, a 
fisherman or destitute. 

The relationship between fishermen and the fish house is a tenuous one. Fishermen 
sell to a fish house and in return often receive dock space and/or credit from the owner. 
Fishermen often rely on the fish house for credit to buy needed supplies or to pay for 
repairs and other expenses they may incur. In fact, they may ask for a cash advance if 
they are short of cash. Loyalty to the fish house is an often controversial issue. The 
owner expects the fisherman to sell only to him in exchange for a credit line that can run 
into the thousands of dollars. However, I often heard from both fishermen and fish house 
owners that it was not uncommon for a fisherman to leave one fish house and begin 
selling to another, without paying off his debt. These disputes would often arise over 
price paid for fish or the fish house cutting fishermen off, claiming they cannot buy fish 
because the markets are glutted. 

Figure 5-5. Part Time Labor Used During Roe Mullet Season 

Prices paid for fish have been a controversial topic between fishermen and the fish 

house in Cortez and elsewhere (Acheson 1981; Maril 1983). In fact it has been the 

impetus for attempts to unionize fishermen in Cortez: 

Well, there were several attempts to unionize the fishermen. They all fell through 
and I was a part of it. They'd form a union and try to go on strike. That was always 
for price control. Tried to get more out of our fish. We thought the dealers were 
not payin 1 as much as they could. We were tryin' to get a higher price for our 
product. That never did work out. We'd strike for six weeks sometimes and then 
the dealer would entice someone to go fishin' and as soon as one boat untied from 
the dock, everybody was gone. They didn't care about the strike or nothin' else. 
They just wasn't gonna let somebody catch fish when they weren't out there tryin'. 


The unions never did work. But in 1966, '67 we had formed what was called the 
Organized Fishermen of Florida. That's a trade association that was interested 
mostly, not mostly but entirely, in keepin' the bays open for fishermen to fish in. 
Fightin' legislation, promoting seafood products and workin' on something besides 
price control. I think in 1970 1 became President and Executive Director of that 
and held onto that job for nearly 10 years. 31 

Unions and Co-ops have had varied success among fishermen cross culturally 
(Acheson 1981). Some have suggested that the independent nature of fishermen 
precludes them from organizing for they lack the cooperative spirit that is needed to 
unionize or form cooperatives (Poggie 1980). As mentioned above, they had little 
success in Cortez. While these fishermen became involved in the Organized Fishermen 
of Florida, there were still divisions around the state that prevented all commercial 
fishermen from becoming organized into one inclusive group. Divided by gear types and 
areas fished, no united fisherman's organization would appear to challenge the well 
organized opposition to their livelihood. 

Each fish house in Cortez had a slightly different character as mentioned before. 
The Bell Fish company had most of the offshore boats and large freezers. Of the three 
fish houses, it was the busiest. Sigma also had some large bait boats and a few large net 
boats that offloaded there, but overall during the summer months it was pretty quiet 
There were fishermen at the Fulford fish house most anytime except late a night. On 
occasion when night fishing, fishermen would frequent these docks late, but it was a 
common daily routine for older fishermen to sit at Fulford's and watch the incoming 
catch and tell fishing stories. 

It was an obvious difference when you visited the Fulford fish house where only 
inshore fishermen would offload. The atmosphere was much more relaxed and many 

1 Oral History with Blue Fulford, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


older retired fishermen would hang around the docks. The pace of activity was slower 
and more relaxed. The A.P. Bell fish house was always bustling with forklifts moving 
boxes offish from freezer to freezer. A crew offish cutters was always working gutting 
or filleting fish. And there was a lot more noise. It was a stark contrast, both family 
businesses but, each with a distinct atmosphere that seemed to reflect the transition from 
the historic and traditional small boat fishery to the more recent and modern large boat 
fishery. It was like walking from the past into the future as you moved from one to the 

Daily Routines and Seasonal Times 

As Dyer et al. (1992) and others have pointed out, life in a natural resource 
community revolves around the seasonal variation of the resource. Cortez is no different 
as depicted in Figure 5-6, with many activities centered on raising funds for the village 
coinciding with the winter tourist season and the availability offish. Many "snow birds" 
arrive for the winter as early as late October but most arrive in November. The winter 
tourist season was also a time when there were plenty offish available as the fall roe 
mullet fishery was well underway. Spanish and king mackerel would also begin arriving 
in the early part of the New Year. 

Mullet spend most of their life in the estuaries. During spawning, however, they 
bunch together and swim offshore to spawn. The beginning of the fall roe mullet season 
is usually slow as the fish began to develop roe and later make their run offshore. The 
roe is sold to Japanese buyers who exported it to Asian markets. The Sigma fish house 
was part of a much larger operation that was Japanese owned; the operation in Cortez 
was primarily for roe mullet but included also a baitfish operation. Until the mullet roe 





Figure 5-6. Seasonal Cycles within the Natural Resource Community of Cortez. 
was of sufficient size, fishermen fish for the local and regional markets only. Once the 
roe became of marketable size, the main fall roe season begins. The price of mullet goes 
up considerably once the roe becomes of marketable size. Mullet prior to roe seasons 
could be as low as thirty-five cents a pound, but more often it was around fifty cents. 
Once the roe had matured, the price of mullet could jump to a dollar twenty or more per 
pound. The roe itself could be as high as five to six dollars a pound. The roe fishery is 
where many small net fishermen made a substantial portion of their income for the year. 
As regulations increased on other species, the roe season for mullet was increasingly 
important to the survival of these fishing families. 


Fish frys were held on Friday nights at the Cortez firehouse. A ladies' auxiliary 
provided most of the labor setting up the kitchen and providing many of the side dishes 
and desserts that were offered along with the fried fish. Volunteer firemen set up tables 
and chairs and fried the fish, which was usually mullet, but on occasion could be 
substituted with Spanish mackerel depending upon availability. The volunteer fire 
department was the primary beneficiary of the money from the fish frys and used it to 
buy equipment for the firehouse. Cortez fishermen made up the volunteer force and their 
wives the auxiliary. 

The annual seafood festival originated in 1982 and quickly became the primary 
fundraiser for the local OFF chapter. Held every third Saturday in February it was 
generally well attended with as many as 10,000 people if the weather is nice . A 
committee consisting of village residents, mostly fishermen or former fishermen, their 
wives and relatives meet several months prior to the festival to plan and organize the 
event. The festival includes food vendors, arts and crafts vendors, music throughout the 
day and entertainment for children. All arts and crafts are required to have a maritime 
theme. All food vendors must sell some seafood items but do offer other fare for those 
who desired something other than seafood. Although some village residents do sell food 
or arts and crafts, the majority of vendors are from outside the village. Local restaurants 
provide the majority of the food vending, while arts and crafts vendors come from a more 
regional geographic area. 

During my stay in the village several attempts were made to have the Seafood festival 
on two days instead of one, but local churches objected to having the celebration on 
Sunday. Later the Festival committee prevailed and the festival is now held on both 
days, but begins at noon on Sunday. 


Figure 5-7. Banner at Seafood Festival. 

The festival was originally sponsored solely by the OFF, however, in 1993 
sponsorship by a local cable company and a local newspaper offered new sources of 
income plus increased coverage by the local news media. Income from the festival was 
often used to help the state organization fund legal fights over fishing regulations and 
individuals who might find themselves in court because of fishing violations. Some of 
the proceeds were used to help support local organizations, like CVHS and FISH. 

The festival always generated a lot of local publicity which became important as 
the SOS campaign became more influential. Interviews prior to the festival were always 
used to comment on the proposed net ban amendment and the impact it would have. 
There were some attempts at the festival itself to raise awareness as informational 
brochures and banners were used to challenge the assumptions in the SOS campaign 
(Figure 5-7). 


The Native's Picnic was another annual event to which many Cortesians looked 
forward. It was started by the director of the CVHS as an opportunity to bring many of 
the relatives of the original five North Carolina families together each year. It was a 
recreation of the traditional family get together that many Cortesians talked about in their 
oral histories. The picnic was held on the grounds of the old schoolhouse, owned by a 
tapestry artist. The Native's picnic was primarily attended by natives and their relatives, 
but occasional visitors were often invited. It was mostly a family affair with music and 
plenty of food. It was not a time for politics, but family, food and festival. 

As mentioned earlier, these events seemed to be an attempt at what Hobsbawm 
(1983) called "invention of tradition." Often promoted in the local media, these events 
presented Cortez as a quaint fishing village with strong family ties and a good work ethic. 
They harkened back to a time when families seemed closer and the village more united. 

Traditional Crafts and Use of Space 

In most fishing communities, a fisherman's home is also his staging area, where he 
works on his boat, nets and other gear. There is nowhere else to conduct the type of 
maintenance and repair required. A fisherman's yard gives plenty of open space where 
he can park his boat, hang a net or stack his crab traps for as long as he wishes. This 
practice creates problems when outsiders move into fishing communities as they may 
find this type of clutter offensive (Figure 5-8). This is especially true if gear, such as crab 
traps, have recently been pulled from the water and are now stored on residential 
property. Fish and sea life can produce highly offensive odors when exposed to hot sun 
and drying winds on land. These conditions have spawned many ordinances along 
Florida's coast regulating the use of one's yard for the storage of fishing gear. 


In the past, when trailering boats was not possible, much of the maintenance on 
fishing boats was done near the fish house. Boatways were built near the shore so that 
vessels could be hauled out of the water and maintenance could be carried out This 
apparatus consisted of jack-like devices that would lift the boat out of the water as each 
side was jacked up and boards placed beneath to hold it up between several pilings. With 
the introduction of fiberglass, fishing vessels became much lighter and could be hauled 
out of the water much easier. As a result most of the boatways have fallen into disrepair 
and are no longer in use. In addition, there were boat building and repair sites like Neriah 
Taylor's boatworks along the waterfront where he built boats with hand tools using local 
hardwoods for materials. 

Figure 5-8. Fisherman's Yard in Cortez 

Maintenance and the work of fishing changed considerably with new technology 
according to one fisherman: 


I'll tell ya, fishin' has really changed. See today you don't have to pull your nets out 
and spread 'em. Most of the time you don't mend 'em. You don't lime 'em. You 
don't have to hang 'em yourself. Somebody usually does that for ya. You don't 
know have to work on skiffs and scows and net spreads. You had to build your 
own net spreads and keep 'em up and paint your own boats and turn 'em over. 
Mend your net and hang your net and lime your net. Now I tell you, you don't do 
one half the work by no means like you used to do to fish. Fishin' has certainly 
changed. 33 

Subsequently, a fisherman's yard has become the primary site for building and 
repair of boats, nets and other gear. It is not uncommon to walk the streets of Cortez and 
see several boats in yards and fishing gear stowed somewhere on the property or 
construction of a new boat or net being undertaken. 

There is constant maintenance that is required of fishing vessels and gear. Nets are 
often torn as they may hang up on debris or rocks that sit on rugged bottom. Traps are 
lost in storms and vessels need regular maintenance from wear and tear. Yards are the 
one place where most all of this repair can take place 

Net mending, using needles and twine, is an important skill for fishermen who 
often learn from their father or other older fishermen. If they do not possess that skill or 
do not have the time, there is always a retired fisherman who will offer his skill to earn 
extra money mending nets. Although I have seen many women build and mend nets 
elsewhere in Florida, I never once saw a woman work on a net in Cortez. 

In fact, women were not noticeably involved in the fishing operations in Cortez. 
Once while sitting on my front porch, I heard a retired fisherman's wife scold her 
granddaughter for being on the docks as she said, "you are not to go down there, I told 
you that is no place for girls." This is not to say women were never on the docks or at the 
fish houses. They were instrumental in helping get supplies and would pack fish 

Oral history with Stargill Pringle, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


occasionally (Figure 5-9) and women did work in the fish houses cleaning fish or in 
administrative roles. 

Figure 5-9. Wives Packing Mullet in Ice. 

The role of women was primarily supportive. There had been women who fished 
in Cortez, but during my stay there were no women who were actively fishing except for 
an occasional fishing trip with husbands or boyfriends. For the most part, women 
attended to the household finances and watched over children while the men were away 
fishing. Family outings on the boat were not uncommon, but were usually not taken 
during peak fishing times. 


It is not unusual to find women in the supporting role, many studies of fishing 
families have found exactly that (Davis 1986; Dixon et al. 1984). While this may 
contradict the findings of another dissertation written about Cortez (Eacker 1994), 
women had a largely supportive role in the fishing operation. In the year and a half I 
lived in Cortez, I never once saw a woman offload fish at any of the docks. While they 
may have offloaded somewhere else, it was not a common practice on Cortez commercial 
docks to find women who fished on a regular basis. 

Place Names and Sacred Places 

The concept of "place" has been a recurring theme within anthropology and seems 
appropriate in this discussion of a natural resource community (Rodman 1992). 
Although place often refers to setting, here the emphasis will be on the social 
construction of place, especially those meanings that stem from the "physical, emotional 
and experiential realities that place hold for their inhabitants...." (Rodman 1992:641). 

An important feature of natural resource communities is the unique relationship 
that most residents have with the landscape. Because they spend a great deal of time on 
the water the boundaries that commercial fishermen recognize as their community go 
beyond the normal boundaries used to define villages or towns. Their "community" 
extends into the bays, sounds and rivers they must fish daily. Fishing sites used by 
generations of commercial fishers have unconventional names that may no longer hold 
significance for younger commercial fishermen but continue to be used as points of 
reference for navigation and fishing. Place names like "Wild Irishman's Cut," "Hottentot 
Bayou," or "Hell's Half Acre" are heard over and again describing daring exploits, great 
catches or monumental failures. These terms are part of the local folklore and will likely 


never appear on popular maps of Florida's coastline. However, a Cortez commercial 
fisherman could possibly take you to any one of them on a moonless night. 

In those cases where named landmarks may have lost their practical use, they 
remain significant for their importance as markers of group identity. Furthermore, the 
symbolic importance for certain landmarks can be understood only through the 
experiential meaning gained from being raised in a community like Cortez. 

s^VtJ ■» 

■w' — 

Figure 5-10. Placename Mural on the A.P. Bell Fish House. 

Oral histories I conducted with Cortez fishermen produced a place name map that 
became the template for a large mural painted on the side of the A.P. Bell Fish house 
(Figure 5-10). That map was a small sign of the many place names that Cortez fisherman 
probably used everyday describing where the latest catch offish were found. 

One retired fishermen reflected on one particular place: 


A man used to live there back in the '20s and '30s and he'd get drunk and come 
down there and raise the devil ya know? The guys just named him Wild Irishman 
and they named Wild Irishman's Cut after him. 34 

In an attempt to recognize the symbolic value placed upon geographical landmarks 
or built structures by residents within small communities, Hester (1990) has coined the 
term "Sacred Structures." The term defines those places (buildings, structures or open 
spaces) that exemplify and reinforce everyday lifeways and/or special events within the 
community (Hester 1990:10). The value placed upon sacred structures often stems from 
a long term association by community members (Piatt 1991). The importance placed 
upon them is often subconscious and may become apparent only when the structure is 
threatened through redevelopment that includes alteration or destruction. To the 
professional planner, architect, or historian, sacred structures may have little appeal for 
they often consist of dilapidated buildings that were settings for daily routines, like fish 
processing, net mending, story telling, etc. The historic importance is often confined to 
local knowledge. 

In Cortez, there are many Sacred Structures. They have importance because of the 
folk traditions that have evolved around the generational use and occupational adaptation 
to working within the marine environment. Such places take on new significance in the 
face of redevelopment and are important symbols to community members as they address 
change in their community. Change that comes in many forms and has often been 
disguised as progress with the promise of opportunity. 

The Fulford Fish house would likely carry the designation as of sacred place 
because of the social activities that have long been associated with it. Green benches 

34 Oral history with Stargill Pringle, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida institute for 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


where fishermen, both retired and active, would sit and discuss recent and past events 
have always been a part of the decor. Comments on the day's catch along with the 
occasional joke were often heard. The whereabouts of most any fishermen could be 
discovered there also. The fish house was built by Tink Fulford, recognized as one of the 
best fishermen in the village and who had taught many of the older retired fishermen who 
live in the village today how to fish. Because the Fulford Fish house relied primarily on 
the mullet fishery, the increasing regulations were having an impact. Not only were 
regulations on the water having an impact, but regulations in general forced it to close in 

Sacred places are not always buildings. The "Kitchen" which is the body of water 
between the docks and the Audubon rookery would also be considered one of those 
sacred places (Figure 5-10). It holds a special place in the local folklore and was a place 
where many Cortesians have spent time, both past and present, in recreation and 
gathering food. The Kitchen is best known for its scalloping history as many village 
older residents remember wading in the water gather scallops in days past. The scallops 
have since disappeared; why, no one seems to know. Some claim they began to 
disappear with the placement of a sewage treatment plant to the south of the "Kitchen." 

These sacred places are not often evident until they are threatened. The Albion Inn 
was certainly one of those places. Although village residents fought to save the Inn, from 
destruction, the Coast Guard nevertheless razed it. Although the Burton's store portion 
of the Inn was saved, it seemed a small victory in a much larger loss. The closing of the 
Fulford Fish house was another sacred place lost and the Kitchen has never been quite the 
same since the sewage treatment plant was built. All in all, it seemed Cortez was losing 


many of its sacred places. The continued growth of Manatee County and its increasing 
emphasis upon tourism and recreation was taking its toll. 

The Close Ties of Kinship 
As discussed in Chapter IV, several families from North Carolina formally settled 
Cortez. Today if you visit Morehead City or Beaufort North Carolina, you will hear and 
see the surnames of many Cortez residents as their relatives still live and fish in that part 
of Carteret County. As one retired fishermen pointed out when asked where his father 
was born: 

He came to Cortez when he was a young feller. Ninety percent of the people in 
Cortez come from North Carolina. Practically all of 'em tar heels. It's a fact I 
heard them talking about that, my father and my mother was mighty young when 
they came to Cortez. 35 

The descendents of those North Carolina settlers still live in and around Cortez. 
The homes in Cortez are still referred to as Aunt Letha's or Capt. Billy's house when 
giving directions. There were strong kinship ties in Cortez. The native's picnic was a 
somewhat overt attempt at displaying that closeness, but smaller family gatherings 
occurred regularly. Almost any event held in the village turned into a potluck affair with 
plenty of food and drink. Although alcohol was tolerated, it was never part of family 
gatherings, unless a special occasion such as weddings or other types of celebrations. 
Families worked together. The fish houses are owned and operated by family members 
or distant relatives. The ties were not always obvious and it was only after some follow- 
up on vague references that one might discover the relationship. 

}5 Oral History with Paul Taylor, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage Oral History Archive, Cortez, Florida. 


The CVHS compiled a list of family members with a small grant from the Florida 
Humanities Council and produced a booklet "The Cortez Families." In the brochure 
there were listed the genealogy of 19 families whose descendents still live in Cortez. In 
addition, the National Register Project listed over 100 homes in Cortez and briefly 
described their history and present owners who were often descendents of those early 
fishermen from North Carolina. The project resulted in designation of a portion of the 
historic village as a National Register district (Cortez Village Historical Society and 
Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage 1992). That designation could help protect the 
village from future attempts to develop waterfront property. 

The close kinship ties are obvious in Cortez and manifest themselves through the 
important extended family gatherings that are often annual events. Smaller nuclear 
family dinners were common throughout the year and yearly visits by distant relatives 
were also common. Trips to North Carolina to visit relatives were not as common but did 

These important characteristics that I have outlined help underscore the significant 
relationship between both the physical and social environment of a natural resource 
community. Cortez like other fishing communities displays a social life that is clearly 
tied to the natural, sometimes chaotic, cycles of the marine environment. Work and play 
in this community have been dictated by those cycles. Fishermen show a strong 
commitment to their work and an even stronger tie to their community (Acheson 1981). 
The interconnectedness between work and social life becomes easily demonstrable when 
viewed over time through the annual cycles of resource availability and seasonal climate 
change which all fishing communities must endure. 


However, that close relationship to the resource has been constantly challenged and 
slowly changed. As Florida's coastline continues to grow, the increasing population of 
outsiders has little knowledge of the traditional lifestyle within a fishing community and 
would not recognize many of their sacred places. These newcomers to Florida's coast 
have come to enjoy the warm weather and beauty of the coastline. They have difficulty 
reconciling smelling traps and fishing gear in their neighbor's yard and often resent the 
clutter and noise of boat and gear repair that often takes place in a fisherman's yard. 
They see commercial fishing as a quaint and appealing icon, but want nothing to do with 
the reality of the everyday life involved in making a living from the sea. As Florida's 
coastal population increases with retirees and those interested in living in leisure and 
recreational communities, there will be increasing conflict between these disparate 
populations. Increasing regulation on both land and water will have an impact as the 
traditional livelihood and folklife associated with fishing slowly disappears. 


Early in 1991, Florida Sportsman publisher Karl Wickstrom posed a question to bis 
readers: "Would you support a constitutional amendment forcing commercial 
netting from Florida waters?" More than 99 percent of FS readers who are 
predominantly sport fishermen responded in favor of the net ban.... The well-heeled 
commercial fishing industry has had a strangle-hold on Tallahassee for the better 
part of this century. There will be no meaningful help coming from that 
quarter.... For now the ball is in the Florida Conservation Association's 
court.... There could be a constitutional ban on netting in effect by January 1 1993, 
but don't count on it. (Hill 1992) 

At face value, the "net ban" campaign seemed like one more environmental 
movement to most Floridians. The images and associated rhetoric ("Save our Sealife") 
implied some urgency with the need to remove entanglement nets from state waters in 
order to conserve marine resources. Indeed, with a name like Florida Conservation 
Association (FCA), there was scant evidence that the chief promoter of the movement 
was, in reality, a special interest group for recreational fishermen. Image was important 
to the campaign, not only for the FCA, but for the counter movement by commercial 
fishermen as well. In fact, a number of contested images were used repeatedly 
throughout the campaign by both sides to win over an uninformed public. 

These "essentialized images" are important features of any encounter with 
environmentalism (Brosius 1999). Undeniably, these issues are complex, but the images 
represent important links to the political underpinnings of social movements. 
Furthermore, issues of motivation, class and empowerment and disempowerment 
underlie the identity politics that are part of such "new social movements." 



In this chapter, I intend to explore the issue of resistance and how it relates to these 
important aspects of political ecology as they evolved throughout the discourse of the net 
ban campaign. Furthermore, a discussion of the various "regimes of nature" (Escobar 
1999) will be included as it seems another important point of departure for the discourse 
of environmental conflicts as scientists, managers and fishermen debate the "true" nature 
of the marine environment. Finally, I discuss the cultural resistance undertaken by the 
community and on the water by the fishermen, offering some perspective of its nature 
and impact. 

Issues, Identities and Interests 

As I mentioned in the introduction, I asked a retired Cortez commercial fisherman 
what he thought of my planned move to the village to conduct dissertation fieldwork in 
November 1991 . I explained that I was interested in spending time with commercial net 
fishers to gain an understanding of their fishing methods and how they interacted with 
their environment. He thought it was a great idea but he had one request, "Just tell them 
the truth!" I immediately understood that by "them" he meant the general public and that 
the "truth" was something other than what had been appearing in "Outdoors" section of 
local newspapers all over the state for the past several months or recreational fishing 
magazines (Figure 6-1). These images combined with statements like, "Fish are 
disappearing from Florida's coastlines. Sport fishermen and conservationists claim 
commercial nets are wiping them out, that the nets must be stopped before it's too late" 
(Milligan 1993:G1) or "Every year this bycatch is measured in millions of pounds. As 
well as killing unwanted and protected finfish, the nets are killing endangered sea turtles, 
bottlenose dolphins and even manatees" (Kozlowski 1993:8) were placing commercial 
fishing in the middle of a growing conflict over marine resources. 


The "truth" would be a rather elusive subject over the next year and a half as the 
campaign to remove entanglement nets from Florida's inshore waters gained momentum. 
I had recently traveled the state interviewing net fishing families about the perceived 
impact of increased commercial fishing regulations on their family fife during the past 
year; they too, wanted the truth to be known. The study examined perceived stress as a 
result of increased regulation of the inshore gill net fishery (Smith 1995). While many 
families described increased financial, emotional and psychological stress because of 
increasing regulation of the industry, they also reported a change in the public's 
perception of their occupation and community (Smith and Jepson 1993; Thunberg, Smith 
and Jepson 1994). 

Figure 6-1. Image of Dolphin Caught in Net in Florida Sportsman, March 1992 

In each community visited by the research team, accounts of verbal abuse at the 
hands of recreational fishers and residents of leisure communities were commonplace 
(Smith and Jepson 1993). In addition, many of those we interviewed complained of 


outdoor writers in local papers who were slandering commercial fishermen and then- 
occupation. These writers accused commercial fishermen of being responsible for the 
decline of various fisheries. To further sensationalize these claims and denigrate the 
image of net fishing, vivid photographs of turtles or porpoise caught in gill nets would 
often accompany a story (Figure 6-1). These photographs and stories were not always 
accurate portrayals of the small gill net fishery in Florida. The bycatch figure of 10 
pounds per 1 pound of useable catch that was often cited was for the offshore shrimp 
fishery which would not be affected by the net ban. Furthermore, dolphin deaths were 
rare in the Florida inshore gill net fishery and because nets were tended regularly, 
fishermen were able to free turtles long before they were in danger. Yet, the figures used 
were highly inflated and misleading as to their source. However, accuracy was not a 
concern since the intent was the exploitation of an uninformed public. 

These "essentialized" images, essential to making the case that Florida's marine life 
was in peril, were important in establishing the credibility of the SOS campaign as 
conservation oriented. By giving the impression that Florida's marine resources were 
under duress, the net ban campaign was placing the campaign and its supporters clearly 
in the environmentalist camp, but it also implied a certain credibility associated with then- 
statements about the status of Florida's marine resources; credibility which the general 
public did not question and the commercial fishing industry disputed. 

Regardless of the status of the stocks, the question posed by commercial fishermen 
was whether the proponents of the net ban campaign were more interested in conserving 
the resource or eliminating the competition. For commercial fishermen, the intent of the 
net ban movement was clear and that was to remove them from state waters. The SOS 


campaign was not a newly established environmental movement and they challenged the 
image of the net ban as being an endeavor in conservation. 

The SOS campaign was attempting to take advantage of Americans' support for the 
environmental movement (Kuzmiak 1991). By placing the net ban into the context of 
conservation they could build the case for removing nets and cast commercial fishermen 
as anti-environment. Conservation is a key term as it can have many different meanings 
to different people. For one person conserving resources could be well managed 
consumptive use; while to another it could mean no consumptive use at all. As discussed 
earlier, Florida's marine resources were being managed by the FMFC or you could say 
they were being conserved. The recreational fishing interest groups were challenging the 
idea that Florida's marine resources were being conserved through present management. 

While interviewing shrimp fishermen in Alabama in 1985 during my initial venture 
into maritime anthropology, I recall one shrimper telling me about a group called the 
Gulf Coast Conservation Association (GCCA) that had formed in Texas. He said that the 
founder of that group had the removal of commercial fishing from all state waters as one 
of his primary objectives. He considered the beginning of that campaign to have already 
occurred with the recent designation of red drum (redfish) and speckled sea trout as game 
fish (recreational take only) in Texas. That designation was strongly supported by the 
GCCA. He went on to say that there was a new push to remove gillnets entirely from 
state waters in Texas. This fisherman was familiar with these circumstances because one 
of his brothers had moved to Texas and was working there as a commercial fisherman. 

In 1989 while I was working on a project interviewing bay shrimp fishermen in 
Texas (Maril 1995), I later spoke with the brother of that Alabama shrimper. He told me 


that in 1988 the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) banned the use of gillnets 
by commercial fin fishermen and that fishermen protested by burning their nets and 
boats. Texas commercial fishermen began using cast nets for capturing mullet, but were 
later informed that the law forbids the use of cast nets and that they could be used for 
capturing bait only. The banning of gill nets by the TWPD was supposedly at the behest 
of recreational fishing interest groups in the state, the largest of which was the GCCA 
(Fritchey 1994; Maril 1995). 

Florida fishermen were suspicious that a similar campaign was being initiated in 
their state as the Florida Marine Fisheries Commission (FMFC) had already provided 
game fish status for redfish in 1988, prohibiting all commercial harvest (Lampl 1986). 
Although recreational harvest of redfish was not allowed initially, they were later allowed 
to keep one fish. Again, the main proponent of the change in regulations was the Florida 
Chapter of the Gulf Coast Conservation Association. 1 

The overall agenda of the Save Our Sealife Campaign can only be speculated upon 
here. It may have been conservation oriented, but much of the rhetoric lacked a true 
conservation tone and the target was very narrow with its focus on commercial net 
fishing. For example, an associate editor of the Florida Sportsman Magazine was quoted: 
"The gillnet cuts a swath of destruction through our marine resources just as effectively, 
and just as wastefully as the punt guns did to waterfowl a hundred years ago" (Law 
1 992: 1 7). Their stated intent was one of conservation as they claimed the banning of nets 
would help many overfished fish stocks become healthy once again. Furthermore, it was 

The Florida Chapter of the Gulf Coast Conservation Association organized under the 
name the Florida Conservation Association (FCA) in 1985. Most recently, the group has 
become the Florida chapter of the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). 


their claim that many protected species, such as sea turtles and dolphins, were being 
harmed by gill nets. The rhetoric of the net ban campaign portrayed commercial 
fishermen as unregulated and highly detrimental to fish stocks as they captured thousands 
of pounds offish at one time as evidenced by their slogan, "One fish at a time, not a ton 
at a time." 

The role of mainstream environmental groups during the campaign was more 
perceptible. An attempt was made to align the movement with conventional 
environmental groups during much of the campaign. Supporters of the net ban lobbied 
conservation organizations to lend their names to the net ban campaign but, had not been 
successful in engendering much support. 2 The initial listing of supporting organizations 
included Florida Conservation Association, Florida League of Anglers, Florida Coalition 
of Fishing Clubs and Florida Wildlife Federation which are all sportsman organizations. 
None of the more popular and well known environmental groups (Sierra Club, World 
Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, Audubon, Wildlife Conservation Society) had signed on to 
the campaign in the beginning. 

It was later in the campaign when more mainstream, although not well known, 
environmental groups began to be add their names to the list of supporting organizations, 
e.g., Sierra Club Defense Fund,(not part of Sierra Club) and the Caribbean Conservation 
Association. Late in 1994 the Florida Audubon Board of Directors formally declared its 
support for the net ban amendment with some caveats, pointing to many detractors of 
recreational fishing also (Editorial 1994). According to one individual, the Board of 
Directors had appointed a special committee to draft a report on both sides of the issue 

2 Personal communication with Kathleen Williams, Wildlife Conservation Society, Latin 
American Office, Gainesville, Florida. 


and present it prior to their decision to support either side. Evidently, the committee did 
not have sufficient time to present their findings before board members supporting the 
initiative were able to persuade a vote and Florida Audubon publicly announced their 
support for the net ban campaign according to this source. 3 

This importance of image and its impact upon their industry was not lost on 
commercial fishermen. In an interview with a local newspaper the president of FISH 
alluded to the "killer" image of commercial fishermen that seemed so pervasive in the 
news media. He was worried as to how the general public would judge his profession if 
it came to a ballot referendum (Quinlan 1992). Others in the community were also 
concerned and were attempting to address that image through various means. 

In early December a film crew arrived at one of the Cortez fish houses. They were 
shooting a segment of Florida Crossroads about the net ban campaign for public 
television that would feature Cortez net fishermen. The Florida Crossroads segment 
turned out to be somewhat controversial because it discredited several of the claims made 
by the coalition to ban nets. It stated that dolphin deaths were very rare in the net fishery, 
especially for the Gulf coast inshore net fishery. The graphic image of dolphins caught in 
a gill net was a powerful one often used in the net ban campaign. Additionally, the 
Crossroads segment pointed out that sea turtles were also rarely caught in nets on the 
Gulf coast and that in the one area of the state where there had been a problem, the state 
had regulations in place which dramatically reduced the number of turtle deaths. All in 
all, the program was very favorable to the commercial sector and the SOS campaign was 
not pleased with the program. 


Personal communication with Judy Brueggeman, Florida Audubon Board of Directors. 


On the same day the film crew from Florida Crossroads arrived in Cortez, a 
reporter from the WMNF radio station in Tampa arrived to interview the director of FISH 
and me about the Florida Humanities project called Vanishing Culture. In that interview 
we attempted to make the case that the net ban would be harmful to a segment of 
Florida's culture, highlighting the rich traditions of commercial fishing that would be lost 
if the net ban were successful. The WMNF interview was broadcast on Florida public 
radio several weeks later. 

The foremost image that commercial fishermen wished the public to see was that 
they were an important part of Florida's heritage, while at the same time an important 
provider of food, especially for those who could not fish for themselves. This theme was 
often repeated in newspapers around the state as the campaign wore on. Fishermen from 
Cortez began to contact an assortment of groups and the emergence of certain alliances 
became rather interesting as they attempted to align themselves with groups who had 
historically been subjected to considerable discrimination, such as African and Native 

One rather interesting image of commercial fishermen was forming as they enlisted 
the Rainbow Coalition of Seafood Consumers of Jacksonville to oppose the net ban. This 
was a small minority group organized around the issue of affordable seafood. Their 
brochures stated that mullet was an inexpensive source of seafood marketed to low 
income blacks in north Florida and Georgia and if the net ban was successful mullet 
prices would increase substantially affecting their access to an important food source. 
This partnership seemed a little ironic given the often prejudicial attitudes of many 


Cortesians toward blacks mentioned earlier (Green 1985). There were blacks who 
worked in Cortez fish houses, but there were none living within the village. 

Another alliance that offered an uncertain image was explored at a rally to 
challenge the County's annual Desoto Festival honoring Hernando Desoto. Native 
American groups were protesting a festival honoring the Spanish conquistador who had 
wreaked havoc among so many of Florida's earliest inhabitants. The director of FISH 
and some fishermen from Cortez met with Russell Means of the American Indian 
Movement (AIM). They discussed the possibility of collaborating with AIM on a 
cultural exchange project. A future meeting with AIM member Barking Dog was to be 
setup with three FISH board members to discuss further collaborations. 

Although the future meetings never took place, this meeting was intriguing for I 
had recently explored the theme of uncertain identity among the Florida fishing families 
during another research project. At that time, fishermen and their wives made frequent 
comparisons of their predicament to that of Native Americans and their history of being 
pushed off land they had traditionally hunted (Smith and Jepson 1993). Here again, 
commercial fishermen were aligning themselves with groups who historically had 
suffered at the hands of a cruel majority. 

Much like the indigenous Kayapo (Turner 1992), commercial fishermen were 
trying to appropriate their image; an image they felt had been "expropriated" by their 
opponents in the net ban campaign. As Turner points out, this appropriation of image 
typically occurs during movements for self-identification and resistance (Turner 1992:5). 
Certainly, utilizing the news media and creating alliances with other oppressed peoples 


were attempts at appropriating an image of commercial fishing that would counter the 
image being proffered by the SOS campaign. 

Like the Kayapo, many indigenous peoples around the world are faced with the 
press of modernity through development and/or conservation and form resistance to what 
ultimately could force them from their native land; a very common problem when parks 
and people clash (Orlove and Brush 1996). Using the media to manipulate symbols to 
define the conflict is also common as Landsman (1988) discovered during confrontations 
as Mohawk Indians were resettled in upstate New York. The Cortesians and commercial 
fishermen in general, face a very similar situation and have resisted development in a 
similar fashion. Although they do not reside in a park, as mentioned earlier they have 
made reference to being pushed off their "reservation" by the opposition; an opposition 
that includes government officials, conservationists and sport fishing groups. 

The village of Cortez has a history of appropriating its image, or at least possibly 
manipulating its image for the media. These attempts were primarily through the efforts 
of the local historical society by publishing books, videos and conducting interviews for 
the local papers. In his book "The Finest Kind," the grandson of a local fisherman and 
son of the CVHS director (Green 1985) documented Cortez history with a slight bias 
toward his own family history. Such appropriations of image are often challenged, as 
was this particular image when another history of the community was written by local 
historian Doris Green (n.d.). The historical society produced many images of the 
community through videos and brochures documenting the history of commercial fishing 
in the village. 


The director of FISH was also concerned about attempts to "expropriate" the image 
of Cortez. He was very protective of Cortez images and had expressed the need for FISH 
to copyright these images (mostly photos he had taken). He expressed considerable 
dismay after he learned that the county tourism director had sent the State Bureau of 
Tourism photographer to take pictures of Cortez. In the eyes of the FISH director, the 
most appropriate images of Cortez came from his camera lens. 

Other attempts at image appropriation were being undertaken through the National 
Register and the Vanishing Culture projects. The National Register project would create 
a National Register District that would encompass a large part of the historic village 
south of Cortez road with the National Register of Historic Places. The Vanishing 
Culture project would document the traditional fishing culture of the village through 
photographs, oral histories and stations placed around the village. Each in its own way 
would make the case that Florida's commercial fishing industry was an important part of 
Florida's overall history and culture; consistent with the theme being offered to counter 
the net ban campaign. 

One other attempt at image appropriation is worth mentioning for it addresses both 
the image of commercial fishermen and their opponents. The director of FISH, the 
festival director and I attended a reading by the author Peter Matthiessen at a local 
library; Mr. Matthiessen was the author of the book Men 's Lives (1986) that chronicled 
the fight between recreational and commercial fishermen over striped bass on Long 
Island, New York. Afterward, as we stood in line to get autographs, I urged the festival 
director to ask him if he would be interested in coming to Cortez to speak about the net 
ban campaign. He said he would be interested as he was thinking of returning to the area 


in May. We later contacted the University of South Florida and started the collaboration 
to bring Mr. Matthiessen to Cortez. 

Figure 6-2. Author Peter Matthiessen with Cortez Historian, Doris Green. 

The Peter Matthiessen lecture was held at the University of South Florida, New 
College in September of 1994. His lecture was well attended with over 200 people in the 
auditorium. He expressed his disillusionment with environmental groups that use high 
profile resource conflicts to promote conservation. He gave an example how Greenpeace 
used graphic photos of tribal peoples clubbing dolphins in a practice they had used for 
centuries. He pointed out that the harvest was humane, happening once a year and that 
very few dolphins were harvested. He equated the Greenpeace tactic, which he labeled 
"green fundamentalism," to the recent net ban campaign and drew some parallels to his 
experience on Long Island with the striped bass controversy between commercial and 
recreational fishermen of New York. Overall, his talk was well received and was covered 


by the local media. Several features appeared the next day in Sarasota and Bradenton 
area papers. 

The next day Mr. Matthiessen visited Cortez (Figure 6-2) and was given a tour of 
the waterfront in another media opportunity. I conducted a videotaped interview with 
him addressing specific issues with the net ban and correlating his experience with 
striped bass and the book Men 's Lives with the circumstances occurring in Florida. His 
lecture was also taped and he gave permission to use these items to oppose the net ban 
campaign. We offered these resources to the OFF and other commercial fishing 
organizations, but they showed little interest. Mr. Matthiessen later sent a letter to the 
Florida Audubon Board of Directors urging them not to support the net ban campaign 
several months after his visit 

The media played a critical role in shaping the image commercial fishing. While 
they maintained the romantic identity of the cowboy, the loner and strong silent type with 
a resolute commitment to independence (Agar, 1986; Bellah, 1985; Smith and Jepson, 
1993), the image of commercial fishermen that prevailed was that of outlaw which was 
embraced by their detractors and the majority of voters (Ritchie 1994). Proponents of the 
Save Our Sealife campaign used sports fishing magazines, outdoor columns and a well 
financed media blitz to portray commercial fishers as environmental outlaws plundering 
the marine resources of the state. In contrast, they cast themselves as conservationists 
and good stewards of the ecosystem. In the weeks prior to the vote, images of dead 
porpoise and sea turtles entangled in nets were broadcast over both the electronic and 
print news media overwhelming commercial fishing industry attempts to focus the debate 
on the loss of their livelihood as food providers. Last minute attempts to point out 


discrepancies in the SOS campaign fell on deaf ears as the metaphor of commercial 
fishers as outlaws was deeply ingrained in the voting public's mind. 

The commercial fishing industry was confronting a powerful interest group vying 
for control over coastal resources important to both sides. The recreational sector had 
become powerful over the years because of the sheer growth in their numbers. 
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Survey there were approximately 3.1 million 
anglers in Florida in 2001 and 2.1 million of those were state residents. Since 1991 that 
number had grown 16 percent (U.S. Department of the Interior 2001). In addition, the 
decision to organize against commercial net fishermen became a priority of a well- 
focused and financed campaign. Utilizing knowledge and experience with the media, 
sports fishing lobbyists were able to build a large coalition of sports fishing clubs and 
individual fishermen who were willing to do whatever it took to get the amendment 
passed. Those numbers, organization and financial resources translated into substantial 
political power in a so-called grassroots movement. 

Commercial fishermen, on the other hand were relying on an older established 
network of political power based more on a "good old boy" network that was losing 
influence, both at the state level and locally. They often relied on influence with the 
Governor's Cabinet to often delay or derail fisheries management actions. They did not 
have the necessary knowledge or resources to manipulate the media to their advantage. 
They used a more personal and cumbersome network of personal connections to try and 
counter the image being used by their opponents. The contrast between these two 
approaches is more than just different means to an end and is indicative of class 
differences that may not be readily apparent 


Class, Power and Knowledge in a Natural Resource Conflict 

There is no question that, overall, the world's fisheries have seen a decline. But, as 
McGoodwin (1990) points out, it is often the more sustainable fisheries, the small-scale 
fisheries that are pushed aside in favor of the more economically efficient and capital 
intensive ones. Looking at the plight of the world's fisheries makes it difficult to 
understand impact of local fisheries and it is all too easy to lump all fishermen under the 
same umbrella that includes large trawlers to small skiffs (Steinhart 1994). But, fisheries 
managers often focus primarily on the biological or the economic, with social and 
cultural considerations coming later. This ignores some of the more feasible and 
sustainable conservation strategies that have been developed locally among fishermen 
themselves (McGoodwin 1990). With environmental groups touting the decline in the 
world's fisheries, it was easy for the SOS campaign to jump on the bandwagon and 
suggest that the small-scale net fishery in Florida was just another part of the problem. 

The disadvantage commercial fishermen and their communities experience through 
class struggles for control over natural resources and development has previously been 
documented along the U.S. Gulf coast and in Florida (Durrenberger 1990; Meltzoff 1989; 
Soden 1989). But, as we examine this issue of class within social movements it is 
obvious that some refinement is needed, as the classic Marxist model has had difficulty 
accounting for more than a materialist objective within these movements (McCarthy and 
Zald 1977; Walsh 1988; Rose 1997). The increasingly well-off middle class in the 
United States and its role in "new social movements" seem to confound the traditional 
relationship between class and social mobilization. A persistent question has been: 
Where is the working class and why is it not more involved in class-based politics? 


The net ban campaign provides an interesting context to evaluate the role of class 
through what is called "class-cultural" theory (LiPuma and Meltzoff 1989; Rose 1997). 
Class-cultural theory examines the important interdependence of interests, values and 
ideas within class that define distinct forms of political and organizational behavior 
without predicting the content of movement issues or politics. By contrasting middle- 
and working class material and cultural structures like work organization and authority 
relationships, important insights into the motivations for either class can be offered that 
are not hampered by a strict materialist explanation (Rose 1997). 

Working class occupations often require manual labor and offer little autonomy 
over the work process. Furthermore, conformity to rules that are often imposed by others 
who are external to the work environment is commonplace (Rose 1997). These types of 
jobs are usually repetitive and routine, requiring physical skill and stamina, but limited 
intellectual engagement. To express autonomy in their work, the working class engages 
in daily forms of resistance with authority figures. In contrast, the professional middle 
class has considerable autonomy over the work process and places more emphasis on 
higher education. It is "organized around a culture of autonomy, personal responsibility, 
intellectual engagement, variability and change" (Rose 1997:478). 

Furthermore, strategies for social movements take different form within each class: 

In sum, working class people live in a system of enforced authority, and they tend 
to approach social change through organizing around immediate, perceived 
interests. Professional middle-class life is regulated by internalized norms, 
ambitions, and responsibilities and these movements tend to see change as a 
process of education about values (Rose, 1997:478). 

This distinction generates different class based forms of politics and social 
movements with working class movements focused on immediate economic and social 
interests, while middle class movements more often address universal goods that are non- 


economic. One key component of middle class culture is its faith in expertise-based 
knowledge and change; an acceptance of rational and technical explanations. Because 
most people who work for the government are also middle class, the bureaucracy appears 
far more benevolent and accessible to the middle-class because they better understand the 
language of science. This familiarity gives the middle-class an advantage of influence 
over those in power that the working class does not share (Rose 1997:481). 

These differences are important for understanding the net ban campaign and the 
years of conflict between recreational and commercial fishermen. The supporters of the 
net ban are more likely to be middle class and to reflect middle class values, while 
commercial fishermen and their communities reflect working class values. Of course, 
these terms are used as idealized types. I realize that supporters of the net ban may come 
from various social classes and that commercial fishermen may not always consider 
themselves working class. But, the form and structure of this conflict, in general, reflects 
class-cultural differences (LiPuma and Meltzoff 1989; Rose 1997). This is particularly 
evident as the net ban supporters first tried to persuade the Marine Fisheries Commission, 
then the State Legislature to impose a ban on net fishing. In each case, they worked 
diligently through the bureaucracy to effect change, but were unsuccessful in that 
endeavor. Recreational fishermen and their associations are more at ease with public 
speaking and are used to working within bureaucracies; this is because many of them are 
likely to do the same in their work. So, recreational fishing groups attempt to address 
fisheries management through bureaucratic influence, whereas commercial fishermen 
would often thwart such attempts at the end of the management process through political 
ties with the Governor and Cabinet, as they had final approval of rules and regulations. 


The frustrations for the recreational fishing groups in their failure at one level of 
bureaucracy then lead them to undertake another bureaucratic avenue through state laws 
regarding ballot initiatives. 

There are distinct power differentials in terms of resources, both monetary and non- 
monetary, that stem from these class differences. Because members of recreational 
fishing groups are more likely to be middle class and professional, they are better 
educated and benefit from the aforementioned familiarity with the bureaucracy of fishery 
management. They have more resources financially and can organize around broader 
issues that are not of immediate concern, thereby ensuring willing participation over an 
extended period of time. But an even more distinct difference may be the acceptance of 
rational scientific management of fisheries resources by the middle class. 

The problems and difficulties that commercial fishermen experience through the 
discourse of scientific management of fisheries have been summarized before 
(Durrenberger 1990; Smith, M.E. 1990). Furthermore, attempts to introduce social 
science into fisheries management has not always been well received (Paredes 1985). 
More recently, Paolisso (2002) finds that crab fishermen in the Chesapeake area tend to 
place their faith in God and not with scientific models when it comes to explaining the 
cycles of the marine environment. He points out that they see too many variables at work 
in nature for any explanatory role of scientific models and they consider unpredictability 
as part of God's plan. Furthermore, they perceive fisheries scientists as being intolerant 
in that they do not allow for other explanations of crab behavior; if science cannot 
explain it, the model is wrong. 


These views are very similar to those I have heard expressed by fishermen from 
Cortez and other parts of Florida and the Gulf coast. Distrust of scientific management is 
often reinforced as fishermen see scientific models being used that seem incomplete. 
One example was provided during a meeting of the OFF Mullet Species Committee in 
Tampa. A biologist with the DNR presented data used to analyze the present state of 
mullet stocks. As he pointed out, one of the difficulties in analyzing mullet stocks was 
that the data being used were relatively new; tagging data were being collected for the 
first time that year. Other indices used in the complex model, like that for juvenile 
mullet, included data for only three years, while the stock assessment model needed at 
least eight or nine years. 

It was obvious that the stock assessment was incomplete and lacking key data 
elements as the DNR biologist was requesting help from the fishermen in gathering 
certain types of data to fill in those gaps. These lapses in stock assessment modeling give 
fishermen pause, especially when their own assessment, based upon what they see on the 
water, does not always mesh with the state's assessment of the fishery. In some cases, 
the OFF has hired their own biologist to offer alternative assessments. In other cases, 
fishermen completely discount the state's assessment. As a fisherman once commented 
upon the state's attempt to describe an assessment of redfish, "and do you know they said 
they flew in an airplane and counted all of those redfish" or another who asked how those 
scientists expected to catch any fish with their sampling net high and dry during low tide. 
Some of this distrust with how the science is conducted can be attributed to unfamiliarity 
with the scientific method. But, their distrust is not only with sampling nets and fish 


counts. Their distrust is much more deep seated and is likely tied to class cultural beliefs 
about nature and its connection to God. 

It has been a principal axiom of modernity to separate the two types of knowledge 
according to Kroll-Smith and Floyd (1997). Expert knowledge, the knowledge based on 
science and held by experts, is the preferred knowledge in state sponsored sciences and 
Lay, or Narrative knowledge will always be secondary. But, this dualism may be failing 
as popular rationality begins to blend both narrative and scientific ways of knowing in the 
field of environmental illness. Like so many other dualisms of modern society (e.g. 
masculme-feminine, subjective-objective) there seems to be a collapse of these bipolar, 
complementary ways of knowing as individuals begin to combine both (Kroll-Smith and 
Floyd 1997). 

The difficulty in accepting rational management of fisheries is part of the class- 
culture difference but is also illustrative of what Escobar (1999) calls different "regimes 
of nature" which have important implications for the circuits of power and knowledge, 
especially in managing natural resources. In characterizing three distinct nature regimes, 
capitalist, organic and techno, Escobar explains key differences in how actors involved in 
environmental conflict conceptualize nature based upon the social, political and 
economic relations which surround their daily lives. Capitalist nature is uniform, legible, 
manageable, and harvestable, but most of all appropriated, processed and transformed by 
expertise knowledge. In contrast organic nature is embedded within culture and largely 
based upon local or traditional knowledge. Techno nature offers an entirely new view 
that is "virtual" and marks the decline of place and territory offering instead the global 
derealization of human activity and devaluation of local time. Within each of these 


"natures" there is an underlying system of beliefs that becomes reinforced through the 
context of daily life experience. Therefore to accept another "regime of nature" requires 
much more than awareness of its existence. It means understanding an entirely different 
view of the world within which one works and lives. 

Fishermen from Cortez and elsewhere often believe that God will take care of 
"Mother Nature" and they place their faith in the divine, rather than scientific theories 
that often guide fishery management; they see nature as inherently irregular and 
sometimes unpredictable (M. E. Smith 1990). Their "organic" nature may be cyclical, 
but dramatic change is anticipated from years of observation and knowledge passed down 
from others. This belief is often in contrast, to the "capitalist regime of nature" which is 
often shared by fishery managers and possibly the larger society. In the "capitalist 
regime," nature should be orderly and drastic changes are not good for the environment 
or the markets. There tends to be an emphasis upon economic efficiency and stable 
markets. This is not to say that fishermen do not appreciate these things, it is only to say 
that they likely do not approach their livelihood with such a view. Proponents of the net 
ban often claimed a greater economic impact of recreational fisheries to that of 
commercial fisheries as partial justification for the net ban (Farron 1994; Ditton 1994). 
Some fishery managers would also support such a justification if not for the economic 
benefit, but from the standpoint of simplifying management by removing one more 
source of conflict. 

The hegemonic belief in science to provide answers and solutions is especially 
strong with regard to the environment. Milon et al. (1998) found a large majority of 


respondents to a statewide Florida survey were supportive of the New Environmental 

Paradigm (NEP) and a majority also supported more funding for environmental research. 

Table 6-1 . The Marine Environmental Concern Scale for Commercial and Recreational 

Fishermen from Florida. 

Commercial Recreational 
Mean Mean 

Environmental Concern Item (n~150) (n=344) 

a. The marine environment is delicate and easily 

upset. 2.49 1.74 

b. My own fishing activity has no effect on the 

quantity offish available to others. 3.51 2.44 

c. Most of the concern about over-fishing has been 

exaggerated. 2.47 4.46 

d. There is such a strong demand for fishing that it 

justifies relaxing some government regulations. 2.97 4.32 

e. The most important thing to consider when 
regulating fisheries is the number of jobs created by 

the activity. 3.00 4.81 

f. The government will have to introduce harsh 
measures to protect fishery stocks since few people 

will regulate them themselves. 4.06 3.04 

g. We have a responsibility to protect the marine 
environment even if it means restricting 

development. 2.11 1.82 

h. I would be willing to make personal sacrifices for 

the sake of protecting fishery stocks even though the 

immediate results may not be apparent. 2.65 2. 1 8 

i. There is a limit to the number of people who can 

fish Florida's waters. 2.83 3.40 

The New Environmental Paradigm scale has been used over many years as a 
measure of environmental concern (Dunlap and Van Liere 1978). The NEP is a general 
measure of environmental concern with a multi-dimensional orientation that can be 
broken down into three distinct areas 1) balance of nature; 2) limits to growth; and 3) 
man over nature (Albrecht et. al 1982). In order to measure specific attitudes toward the 
marine environment and issues related to saltwater fishing, I reworded the NEP scale 
items to reflect specific concern for the marine environment (Table 6-1) and added the 


questions to surveys being conducted with both commercial and recreational fishermen in 
the state. 

The Marine Environmental Concern Scale was administered on two different 
surveys to two different populations. The first was a sample of two thousand recreational 
fishermen selected from a random phone survey conducted by the National Marine 
Fisheries Service with Florida households as part of a study on marine recreational 
fishing participation (Milon and Thunberg 1993); results of 344 mail surveys are used 
here. The second sample was part of a larger study examining changing marine fisheries 
regulations and family stress and coping conducted with 95 married couples living in ten 
Florida communities (Smith and Jepson 1993). Data for the latter study were gathered 
through face-to-face interviews with husband and wife and 150 cases were used. 

The Marine Environmental Concern Scale consisted of nine items like the NEP 
scale. Respondents were asked to indicate their agreement with each statement on a six- 
point Likert scale, ranging from strongly agree (1), to strongly disagree (6). A series of 
statistical tests were performed on the items to measure correlations between subscales 
and reliability, but problems with internal consistency were apparent. Further analysis 
indicated there were problems with construct validity among subscales and the items did 
not constitute a scale. Therefore only general statements about the direction and 
magnitude of responses can be made. 

The results of the two surveys, while not statistically comparable still provide some 
interesting results for discussion. Commercial fishermen tend to agree with the statement 
that the marine environment is delicate and easily upset, but not as much as recreational 
fishermen. This is consistent with other reports that commercial fishermen tend to see 


the marine environment as being self-regulating (Paolisso 2002; M.E.Smith 1990). In 
terms of fishing effort having no effect on the amount of fish available to others, 
recreational fishermen tend to agree with the statement, while commercial fishermen 
disagree. This may be largely due to the fact that recreational fishermen see themselves 
as taking a small portion individually and have difficulty comprehending the cumulative 
impact of thousands of angler's harvesting potential on any given day. After all, a slogan 
for the SOS campaign was "One fish at a time, not a ton at a time." Commercial 
fishermen, on the other hand, are very competitive and recognize their ability to catch 
fish may often mean opportunities for others are diminished. Commercial fishermen tend 
to agree with the next three statements which include exaggeration about over-fishing, a 
need to relax government regulations and the need to consider jobs in regulating fisheries. 
All three items tap into the perception that commercial fishermen consider their industry 
as being overregulated, while recreational fishermen, in contrast, consider it under- 
regulated. Responses to item f tend to reflect those same attitudes as commercial 
fishermen do not agree that harsh measures would need to be introduced since people will 
not regulate themselves; recreational fishermen do agree with the statement. This may be 
an important contrast as commercial fishermen often contend that they can regulate 
themselves and see fisheries management as being oppressive. Of the last three items, 
the last item shows the most divergence in agreement. When it comes to limiting the 
number of people who fish Florida's waters, commercial fishermen agree more strongly 
with the statement than do recreational fishermen. This may be due to commercial 
fishermen being more familiar with limited entry fisheries. Recreational fishermen are 
not restricted by limited entry, although some have suggested such an alternative to curb 


recreational fishing effort, something recreational fishing advocates ridicule (Longman 

Overall, recreational fishermen tend to show stronger agreement with the tenets of 
the New Environmental Paradigm than do commercial fishermen. While this may not be 
a statistically significant difference, the results suggest that there may be real differences 
in how commercial and recreational fishermen in Florida exhibit concern about the 
marine environment. Recreational fishermen who are more likely middle class with more 
education and a higher socioeconomic status than commercial fishermen are more likely 
to adhere to the capitalist or techno regime of nature. 

In either case, whether the capitalist regime or techno regime of nature, there are 
distinct differences compared to the organic regime. Therefore, any opposition by 
fishermen to scientific based management might be seen largely as resistance to any type 
of regulation and not a question of the validity of scientific models or the application of a 
complex belief system about nature. 

Commercial fishermen have a tendency to adhere more to an organic regime of 
nature. If fisheries managers and supporters of the net ban adhere to other regimes of 
nature, then barriers to any attempt to resolve issues on how to protect or manage 
fisheries do exist and need to be addressed. Resistance to management, then, is more 
than a mere aversion toward regulation and requires new alternatives for resolution 
(McCay and Jentoft 1996; Paolisso 2002). Furthermore, commercial fishermen may 
disagree with many aspects of rational scientific management but may accept it for 
reasons that are external to the scientific process (Weeks and Packard 1997). Resistance 
is not merely disdain for the law; it is an integral part of the culture. 


Resistance to fisheries regulations was going to be a key in the net ban campaign as 
recreational interests were already pointing to the present resistance by the commercial 
industry to new mullet regulation as evidence of their lack of concern for the resource 
(Editorial 1992). Such resistance would help fuel the portrayal of commercial fishermen 
as poor stewards of the resource and assist in creating a negative image of commercial 
fishermen for Florida voters in the ongoing media campaign to support the "net ban." 

Resistance, Both Within and Without 

As mentioned earlier, resistance in Cortez seemed to take two forms; one was the 
more open, formal and public form that often used the media for publicity for the 
community and commercial fishing. The other was the more informal resistance on the 
water that generated a poor image that hampered industry efforts to counter their 
antagonists' representation of commercial fishing. Both were integral to the cultural 
traditions within the community. 

Figure 6-3. Tallahassee Mullet Ruling Protest. 


The more formal resistance was undertaken largely through the organizations 
within the community: OFF, CVHS, and FISH. Opposition to fisheries regulations by the 
OFF were common and most often took the form of lobbying legislators and other power 
brokers, but also included legal challenges resolved in a court of law. However, more 
spontaneous movements that were not always endorsed by the OFF hierarchy did occur. 
One such example took place when the FMFC decided to implement an emergency rule 
which would put new mullet regulations into effect sooner than they would under normal 
circumstances. The FMFC wanted to have those regulations in place prior to the 
beginning of the Fall roe season so as to have an immediate reduction in harvest through 
a longer weekend closure and other restrictions. Because the Governor and cabinet had 
to approve all regulations produced by the FMFC, a coalition of commercial fishing 
groups formed a rally to protest the FMFC's action. 

The rally took place in Tallahassee with a small protest march to the Capital 
building where the governor and cabinet were going to determine the outcome of the 
proposed emergency rule (Figure 6-3). The director of the FMFC proposed the 
emergency ruling and the Governor quickly got to the point as to whether there really 
was an emergency. The Attorney General questioned the director on the current rule and 
the status of the challenges. He said he did not seem to think that the industry was in 
danger of immediate collapse. He also said that he did not think the state could win a 
case for an emergency rule. The Secretary of Agriculture got loud applause when he said 
there was a need to focus on putting people to work, not out of work in these hard 
economic times. The cabinet defeated the motion for an emergency rule and the 
upcoming roe season would operate under current regulations. 


Recreational fishing interest groups capitalized on the action of the Cabinet and the 
protest by fishermen to make it seem they were averse to any regulation and would resist 
unconditionally. This became a critical decision that according to some would ensure a 
"net ban" amendment would be on the upcoming ballot (Hill 1992). 

The type of resistance characterized by the protest march was not the typical for 
commercial fishermen; in fact, many of the organizers were disappointed at the low turn 
out for the rally. This type of public display was usually reserved for FISH and CVHS. 
In fact, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage was formed during a controversy over 
the old Albion Inn that the Coast Guard razed in 1991 which became a very public 
protest. The hotel was the oldest building on Sarasota Bay, having withstood the 1920 
hurricane and several other major storms. The Coast Guard purchased the property and 
had been housed there for about ten years. They had received funding for a new building 
and decided to build on the same property. FISH along with the CVHS opposed the 
destruction of the hotel and both organizations lobbied local, state and Federal agencies 
to stop the Coast Guard from tearing down the structure. They were unsuccessful, but 
were able salvage one part of the hotel referred to as Burton's Store (Figure 6-4). The 
store was actually older than the hotel and had become part of the hotel after years of 
renovation. The Coast Guard agreed to offer that part of the building to FISH. FISH 
negotiated with the A.P. Bell Fish Company to place the building on their property until 
funding and a site for the building became available. 

In many ways, Burton's Store became a symbol of the struggle by those concerned 
with preserving the community's historic character. Although there were many within 
the village who opposed salvaging the structure, others saw it as a small victory in light 


of the larger defeat of losing the Albion Inn. Over the next several years, Burton's Store 
would become more of an eyesore than a symbol, yet would remain standing across from 
the Coast Guard Station as a reminder of the community's resistance. 

Figure 6-4. Burton's Store Located across from A.P. Bell Fish Company. 

Other public protests followed as both FISH and CVHS were concerned with a plan 
by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to build a sixty-five foot high fixed- 
span bridge from Cortez to Anna Maria Island mentioned earlier. It was part of a larger 
FDOT plan to widen Cortez Road from Bradenton to the village and replace the 
drawbridge that was currently in place. The plan was supposed to relieve traffic 
congestion by removing the obstacle of the bridge as it stopped traffic every time it was 
raised to allow boaters to pass on the intercoastal waterway. During the winter when 
most seasonal residents have arrived and during the peak summer beach season, traffic 
backs up considerably when the drawbridge is raised. The steady stream of cars that 
follow the lowering of the bridge offers few breaks and can take several minutes to clear. 


In addition, there were safety concerns that the FDOT had recognized and proposed 
through the removal of all drawbridges in Florida to facilitate evacuation during 
hurricanes. Once bridges are lowered during a hurricane evacuation, they are no longer 
raised to allow boats to move into safe harbor; so latecomers are left in dire straits. 

The local Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) had 
approved the bridge in December of 1988, but neither the FDOT nor MPO held a public 
hearing in Cortez prior to deciding on the design. When challenged, they did hold a 
hearing in the village and found considerable resistance to the planned bridge. In 
contrast, the FDOT had prepared a well produced video showing several different bridge 
options for public hearings in Sarasota County to demonstrate the various impacts on the 
proposed bridge replacement from Sarasota to Long Boat Key. There were no videos for 
the Cortez Bridge, but then Cortez did not have oceanfront lots worth one million dollars 
for sale either. 

Those who opposed the bridge considered its scale out of character with the area. 
Both Cortez and Anna Maria Island had zoning laws in place that restricted the height of 
buildings to three stories. Furthermore, the claim that the bridge would relieve traffic 
congestion was challenged because all traffic from Bradenton flowed into a T intersection 
with a stoplight for a two-lane road on the island. The opposition also felt that such a 
large bridge would encroach upon the character of the historic village of Cortez. Finally, 
there were environmental concerns about the impact of pilings and other disturbances to 
the waterway. The opposition won out in the end. 

The Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) voted February 24 to remove the 
proposed Cortez Bridge replacement from its five-year work plan. The action follows 


several yeas of organized resistance to the replacement plan from residents and elected 
officials from Anna Maria Island and Cortez village (Editorial 1992a). 

There was considerable optimism by those who had opposed the sixty-five foot 
high fixed-span bridge from Cortez to Anna Maria Island after it was removed from the 
five year plan. Some quietly commented, however, that it may have been taken off the 
five-year plan only to be put on the six-year plan. Nevertheless, there began plans for a 
"No Bridge Cruise" to be held on one of the local charter vessels that operated next to the 
bridge in Cortez. 

Although it seemed to have the support of most villagers, comments by some 
residents later seemed to reflect differences of opinion that were not evident before the 
decision on the bridge. Several village residents, some commercial fishermen, felt that 
the new bridge might actually have been a good thing; that it would have alleviated 
traffic congestion and made it easier to cross Cortez road. Nevertheless, the bridge at 
Cortez would not be built and the fight over its placement and location now generated 
new resistance to the planned bridge replacement at the north end of Anna Maria Island. 

Resistance of this type was commonly taken on by the organizations within the 
village and in a large part by women. The protest in Tallahassee was organized by a 
woman. The protests to the bridge and Albion Inn were lead by women from CVHS as 
were many of the anti-development protests and the anti-drug protests of the past. In 
fact, the OFF was started by a woman. This is in part, due to the fact that women spend 
more time on land than men. They have more opportunity to organize as they have 
access to communication tools and can get to places if needed. Women are also often the 
bookkeepers for households and therefore may develop organizational skills that 


fishermen may not. All of these factors, to some degree, contribute to and can explain 
their presence in these public displays of resistance. Fishermen who spend most of their 
time on the water have developed a different form of resistance. 

The resistance on the water was quite a different and would not be readily apparent, 
to those who are unfamiliar with fishermen and their communities. To illustrate my point 
a description of one fishing trip that I took in the early Spring with a local Cortez 
fisherman will provide a glimpse into the routine nature of this type of resistance. 

At the time of the trip many fishermen were fishing for pompano using "set nets" 
which are placed close to the beach, perpendicular to the shoreline. This type of net is 
anchored at both ends and sinks to a foot or two below the waterline. Buoys mark both 
ends of the net, so that boaters might see them and avoid entangling their prop in the net 
hidden below the surface. On this particular night we had set our net near the beach and 
went to visit a friend who was fishing more than a few hundred yards away from us. We 
pulled our boat next to his and began to talk and eat our dinner. This is not unusual as 
fishermen often fish with kinfolk or friends and meet to talk or eat on the water. As we 
talked, both fishermen kept looking off toward the beach for the marine patrol and 
several times wondered whether a boat in the distance was just a boat or the Marine 
Patrol. After about an hour and a half, we returned to where we had placed the net, but 
were surprised to find it gone. After making sure that it had not moved with the current, 
it became apparent that law enforcement had confiscated the net. The Marine Fisheries 
Commission had recently passed a new regulation that required all nets be tended (close 
enough to monitor) and that fishermen could not be more than 100 yards away from then- 
net when fishing. This fisherman was aware of this new tending rule and was well aware 


that he was not within 100 yards, thus he kept looking for the Marine Patrol. He 
wondered later if he had been turned in by a property owner on the beach who might 
have called law enforcement. I heard the next day that he had been cited with a violation 
and would have to go to court and pay a fine to get his net back. 

Other examples of such resistance were heard time and again. One evening while 
at home a fisherman stopped by to visit and told me several stories similar to the 
resistance described above. He was an officer in FISH and also the local OFF. I had 
been fishing with him before on a bait boat he crewed on and knew him well through the 
various projects we had worked on together. He asked if I had seen a recent letter in the 
Bradenton Herald from a disgruntled homeowner who claimed he had been threatened by 
commercial fishermen and was planning on turning in any commercial fishermen caught 
fishing in his canal. The fishermen told me that he had been ticketed in the canal two 
nights before. He obviously was a little sheepish about it and worried because he was an 
OFF officer and did not want to lose his position because of the infraction. He told me 
that he thought about it when they were in the canal, but was not sure what would 

He went on to tell me of exploits of several fishermen from Cortez. Because I told 
him I had been on the river with the marine patrol the other night, he began telling stories 
about fishing on the river. In one story a fisherman would go up the river late at night 
where it was illegal to fish commercially and net fish. Rather than risk being caught by 
the marine patrol he would haul the boat out of the water at a boat ramp up the river and 
trailer home. One night they evidently were stuck and could not avoid the marine patrol 


so they had to leave the boat, net and everything. They reported it stolen and had it later 

In another instance, a fisherman was pulled over with a net full offish in the river. 
The marine patrol asked him to dock the boat at a particular ramp. Evidently the 
patrolman started toward the ramp and the fisherman was to follow. When they got to 
the dock the net was no longer in the boat. The marine patrol asked what happened to his 
net. The fisherman said, "What net? I don't have any net." Evidently, he had thrown it 
out the back of the boat while the marine patrol was leading the way to the dock. His 
brother supposedly picked the net up later and had taken it home, fish and all. 

These stories were not uncommon in the course of conversations with fishermen 
over time in the village. Even fishermen whom you would least expect would often have 
an account of outsmarting the marine patrol or some type of illicit fishing activity. 
Nevertheless, it became obvious that breaking rules was not unusual. It seemed to be an 
accepted part of the occupation, but may also have been part of a larger cultural feature 
shared by most villagers as I often heard remarks of disdain for government regulation, 
especially for building permits and such, which were thought of as an unnecessary 

This foot-dragging, false compliance and other evasive tactics used by fishermen in 
daily life are the "weapons of the weak" that Scott (1985) documented within peasant 
resistance. These attempts to gain some form of control over their work and lives are 
similar to those that peasants and others have used around the globe. Yet, fishermen also 
take part in other forms of protest that are not so covert and may often entail a good deal 
of coordination and planning, even challenging the bureaucracy. This mixed form of 


social protest may be a representation of what Fox and Starn refer to as "in between" the 
large scale social movement and resistance (Fox and Starn 1997). 

The resistance that I observed in Cortez was very familiar along other parts of the 
U.S. Gulf coast as mentioned previously with the Texas bay shrimpers. And certainly the 
offshore shrimpers studied by Dyer and Moberg (1992) or the North Carolina fishermen 
by Griffith (1999) all participate in this "in between" resistance. In fact, during my 
fieldwork in Texas in 1989, 1 watched the protest by Gulf shrimpers become a nationally 
televised event as they blockaded ports to protest the forced use of turtle excluder devices 
(TEDs) by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). That particular protest was 
Gulf wide and demonstrated a resistance that was capable of broad support throughout 
several states as shrimp fishermen from Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and 
Texas all participated. They were unsuccessful in their attempt to stop this forced 
technological change as the NMFS was under formidable pressure from environmental 
groups to impose TED regulations in accordance with the Endangered Species Act. Yet, 
as Dyer and Moberg (1992) point out, the everyday resistance continued as fishermen 
sewed the opening shut to stop the loss of shrimp and prevent turtles from being 

These forms of resistance, both the formal and the informal, are inextricably tied to 
class-cultural differences. These encounters with authority are opportunities for 
fishermen to express some autonomy over their work and life; autonomy that they see 
being reduced over time as increasing regulations continue to restrict their fishing. 
Resistance reinforces their sense of independence by giving them some say in the daily 
accomplishment of their work as they see these rules being imposed by outsiders, others 


who do not have the same attachment to these waters that they embrace. Furthermore, 
fishing families of Cortez tend to organize around issues that are of immediate concern 
(i.e., Albion Inn or drawbridge to Anna Maria Island); common behavior for working 
class movements (Rose 1997). Whether it is the net ban campaign or government plans 
for building a bridge, the community organizes against outsiders who have challenged 
their interests. Outsiders are those who, for whatever reason, seem to be acting for their 
own advantage. Those who run both government and business are also outsiders and 
seem to be interested in their own personal gain (Rose 1997). Therefore commercial 
fishermen and their communities tend to perceive developers and government bureaucrats 
as strangers and may make little distinction between either. This is a familiar pattern as 
fishermen make little distinction between the different levels of governmental control 
over their resources. In many discussions they tend to lump local, state and federal 
government together making little distinction between which agency is responsible for 
which regulation or permit. Furthermore, when discussing the net ban campaign they 
often place government in the same group with net ban proponents. 

These class-cultural differences are especially evident when examining the more 
formal resistance, but the informal resistance may be more deeply rooted in the culture of 
fishing, yet still reflect class differences. As discussed earlier in Chapter 2, the sense of 
injustice that peasants experience as their "right to subsist" is infringed upon by outsiders 
or the state described by Wolf (1969) is very much like what fishermen from Cortez and 
elsewhere undergo as they become pushed from traditional fishing grounds. Fishermen 
acknowledge that in some areas where canals have been built for housing developments, 
fish that would once gather together in the bay now go into the canals for shelter and are 


inaccessible to them because of laws prohibiting their entry. They argued that dredging 

the canals changed fish behavior and they resent the fact that they are now prevented 

from going into the canals after them. Coastal development has changed the landscape 

and their access to fish: 

But then the same thing happened up there in Anna Maria. Many seine fish have 
been caught between them piers and the people watched. Then they built some 
houses in there and the people who had the houses would run out there sayin' 
"shoo, get out of here. You can't fish here". . . and all this kind of thing; like a 
bunch of chickens. 4 

Commercial fishermen do not see coastal development and changing fisheries 

regulations as isolated events. 

It'll never... if the fishing goes, the big money people, the developers are doing 
everything they can to buy out Cortez. This is a prime location on the water. It's 
almost totally ... it's got water halfway around it and it's got the channels and 
everything it would take to make a monstrous big-time money situation for these 
high rises. And they would love to see us go down so they could make their 
millions. 5 

There are definite theories of conspiracy that fuel these feelings of injustice 

(Fritchey 1994; Maril 1995; Griffith 1999). Furthermore, the language becomes more of 

a moral language that places fishermen within the context of a much larger group of 

oppressed people: 

They annihilated the Indian culture which now, they've restored h. They've 
annihilated all kinds of things, the Indian Mounds and stuff that were around 
Cortez. They've leveled it and put high rises on it. When are you gonna stop? 
When is there a stopping to all this mess? We've got plenty of property and there's 
land. Everybody don't have to live on the water. And when you armor the 


Oral history interview with Alcee Taylor, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute 
for Saltwater Heritage, Cortez, Florida. 

5 Oral history interview with Ray Pringle, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage, Cortez, Florida. 


shoreline you've lost anyhow. You've killed the nurseries for the baby fish to grow. 
It's just ridiculous. 6 

These feelings of injustice are part of what fuels the resistance on the water; a form 

of everyday resistance reminiscent of the everyday peasant resistance described by Scott 

(1985). These acts of defiance range from minor violations of gear rules, to major 

offenses such as fishing in closed areas or during time closures. But clearly this defiance 

reflects a sense of ownership by these fishermen; a "right to subsist." Much like the 

shrimp fishermen of Alabama (Dyer and Moberg 1992) who felt a "right to subsistence" 

and the fishermen of New Jersey who saw themselves as "dispossessed commoners," 

fishermen of Cortez view their historical rights to fish these waters as being threatened 

and those rights do not necessarily come from the authorities. 

I think that the way they're going about it and looking down their nose at a people 
who have been and are proud people, we're very plain and ordinary.... We have a 
freedom that these folks are trying to take away from us that's not right. I think it's 
beyond just the Constitution. I think its God given. 7 

Although their detractors see this resistance as mere criminal behavior, it is more 
than that, and reflects many conflicting values of an encroaching urban society upon 
areas that were once geographically rural and may still be rural in their outlook (Forsyth, 
Gramling, and Wooddell 1998). Additionally, resistance is rarely an act of one; it often 
takes the coordinated efforts of a group and can have benefits for the community as a 
whole (Vasquez 1994). There was far more sympathy than criticism by village residents 
for a fisherman who was caught by the marine patrol in violation of some fishing 

6 Oral history interview with Ray Pringle, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage, Cortez, Florida. 

Oral history interview with Ray Pringle, Vanishing Culture Project, Florida Institute for 
Saltwater Heritage, Cortez, Florida. 


regulation. Furthermore, if he was successful in bringing in a good catch, the better for 
the fish house and all the employees. 

While there may be a certain benefit to resistance and it may be embedded within 
the culture, there were many who understood the important role that resistance, both 
formal and informal, played in forming the public image of commercial fishermen and 
their communities. Attempts by the OFF officers, both local and statewide, to reverse the 
image of outlaw that was so successfully used against them, were at the very center of a 
division within the statewide fishing organization and Cortez. In attempting to convince 
fishermen to buy into the fishery management process through lobbying efforts and deals 
to accept some regulation, the OFF generated opposition which considered their lobbying 
efforts to be pandering to government bureaucrats and other outsiders. While some 
fishermen considered the rational scientific management of fisheries to be an unavoidable 
future, others thought that it was more important to fight the increasing regulation of their 
work and refused to compromise. 

At one of the first local OFF meetings I attended, a dispute arose when one member 
told the director, who was also an officer within the state-wide organization that he was 
tired of all the compromising they were doing with the state's Marine Fisheries 
Commission (FMFC). A few angry words were exchanged between the two fishermen 
before others spoke up diffusing the heated discussion. Later during the meeting, a 
matter concerning a letter that had recently been sent to OFF members statewide was 
brought up by the director. The letter accused him and other state officers of lavishly 
spending OFF money and jet-setting around the state like "playboys." It also referred to 
them as "wimps," "compromisers" and "stooges." Several members of the local chapter 


immediately denied having anything to do with the letter, which some might have 
interpreted as a sign of guilt by implication. Others spoke to the issue of divisiveness and 
said that this was the last thing they needed, especially at a time when there was a push 
by certain groups within the recreational fishing sector to remove gillnets from state 

The dispute between these two factions would become an important source of 
tension within Cortez, but would also have implications for the parent OFF organization 
and other commercial fishing organizations throughout the state. The discord within the 
local chapter was indicative of a similar division statewide that would hamper efforts to 
combat the campaign to remove gillnets from state waters in the near future. 

In early December of 1992 1 attended a meeting of a new coalition formed to fight 
the net ban campaign. This coalition was primarily composed offish dealers from 
around the state. Others had been invited to attend the meeting to serve in an advisory 
capacity. I had asked the manager of one Cortez fish house why they needed another 
organization. She expressed some frustration with the division between the state OFF 
and the Seafood Consumers and Producers Association (SCPA). The latter was a recent 
organization that was challenging new fisheries regulation through litigation. Her 
concern was that financially, fishermen were being asked to support two different 
campaigns to fight the net ban. She and other dealers thought another group should be 
formed which would bring all groups together to form a united front. That group would 
be called the Professional Fisheries Conservation Coalition (PFCC). 

The PFCC had hired a political consultant who was introduced to the group and 
quickly pointed out that the FC A would be successful in their petition drive. He said that 


private firms can guarantee a successful petition drive in 120 days if necessary but would 
charge 1 .5 million dollars to complete it. He pointed out that the FCA would not spend 
that much money for a petition drive, but instead would take longer to gather the 
necessary signatures. Nevertheless, they would be successful. He also cautioned the 
group about hiring a Public Relations firm to address their image saying they would 
spend a great deal of money, yet accomplish little. His focus was going to be on a 
television ad campaign to combat the initiative once it made it to the ballot. 

This approach caused some concern among some of those present, especially, the 
OFF. The Cortez director and the state director both argued that slowing the petition 
drive was an important component. The consultant for the PFCC countered that they 
would be unsuccessful in stopping the petition and should concentrate on the ballot 
initiative. He went on to say that they needed to get more ethnic groups involved with 
the campaign against the net ban, especially Blacks and Hispanics. 

The attempt at unifying all fishing organizations was unsuccessful as evidenced 
when the officers of the State OFF organization scheduled a meeting in mid- January 
1994. The meeting was held in a Bradenton hotel to introduce the "Save Our Seafood" 
campaign. The name was purposely chosen to create confusion among the public as it 
would have the same acronym as the Save Our Sealife campaign. There were 
approximately 30 people in attendance, but surprisingly there were no media present. 

The OFF had hired a public relations firm to draw out the petition drive and 
hopefully drain the Save Our Sealife funds, preventing them from gathering enough 
signatures. This strategy was in direct contrast to that of the PFCC that had decided to 
raise money for a large advertising campaign just prior to the vote on the ballot initiative. 


The consultant heading up the PFCC campaign had earlier stated in his opinion that 
any effort to stop the petition drive would be useless as he was convinced the Save our 
Sealife campaign would get enough signatures. Nevertheless, the OFF campaign was 
already in progress. Several executive officers had been traveling the state visiting the 
editors of most major newspapers making the case for commercial net fishing, despite the 
fact that most had already printed feature stories supportive of the net ban campaign. In 
addition, the director of OFF stated they were pursuing a bill that would require the 
recreational fishing sector to fund a buyout of the commercial net fishermen if the 
initiative were to pass. All in all most in attendance were impressed and thought it was a 
good strategy. The fact that they were now competing directly with the PFCC for funds 
did not seem to concern anyone at the time. 

There continued to be a strict division between the two commercial fishing groups; 
the compromisers and non-compromisers. As both groups pursued their strategies 
fishermen, families and friends around the state were being asked to divide their loyalties 
and donations between several different campaigns to fight the net ban. There was no 
concerted effort or plan and several individuals were taking it upon themselves to 
develop their own advertising campaigns. Several restaurant owners were printing 
placemats that defended the commercial fishing industry offering statistics on landings 
that showed, for many species, it was the recreational sector that landed the most. 

Resistance is an important part of the culture of fishing and has significant 
implications for the commercial fishermen of Cortez and their community. While 

8 The Gainesville Sun (September 12, 1993) had published a featured piece on the net ban 
in the Issues section "Commercial fishing nets catching flak" that was highly disparaging 
toward the commercial fishing industry. Later, just prior to the ballot vote, the editorial 
staff came out against the net ban proposal (Gainesville Sun November 1, 1994). 


resistance reinforces a strong sense of independence and autonomy within their work and 
lives, it did not reflect the image of the beloved hero of the West or strong silent type on 
the margins of society that was discussed earlier through the work of Agar (1986) and his 
work with independent truckers or Bellah et al. (1985) and their look at American attitude 
toward independence. The image that resonated with the general public was much 
different. And while fishermen and their families recognized the disconnect with the 
public's perception, they envisioned yet another image more aligned with the oppressed, 
like American Indians being pushed off their land. Instead, the image that resistance 
portrayed during the net ban campaign was one of outlaw and destroyer of the resource; 
an image that would be fatal in terms of combating the net ban campaign. 



After leaving the village I stayed in close contact with the FISH and many of those 
families who brought me into their family while in the village. I began to write several 
editorials to the local paper in Gainesville critical of the net ban campaign as part of an 
effort to inform the public. I was also involved in the organizing of a proposed debate on 
the campus of the University of Florida sponsored by the Anthropology Department. 
Because of my recent letter writing campaign I thought it would be best if I were not 
openly involved in any publicity of the debate. I asked another anthropology student to 
take the lead. 

Contact was made with potential speakers from both the commercial fishing and 
the recreational fishing lobbies. Originally, a panel of moderators was to be chosen 
which included academics with experience in maritime issues in Florida and an 
environmental writer from the Gainesville Sun. The list was submitted to both sides of 
the debate and they were invited to participate at that time. The recreational 
representatives refused to take part. An article in the Gainesville Sun (Tucker 1994) 
chronicling the turn of events generated letters to the editor critical of the entire process 
(Bowles 1994). Comments were made that suggested panel members were partial to the 
commercial fishing industry or had no experience in these issues and therefore gave the 
recreational sector good reason to not participate. However, panel members had well 



documented experience with fisheries management of both commercial and recreational 
fisheries and most of the critique was hyperbole. 

After discussions with those involved in organizing the event, it was determined to 
go ahead with a forum format where speakers would address the audience and then have 
a question and answer period. Shortly after it became known that we intended to go 
ahead with the forum arrangement with only the commercial side present, the Department 
of Anthropology began to receive a number of phone calls. Many of these phone calls 
were from recreational fishermen who were critical of the department saying it was a 
one-sided debate. However, when asked to participate, they always refused. 

One phone call from the State Comptroller's office was particularly disconcerting. 
The official who called asked whether state funds had been used to set up the event. I 
told him that I did not know and would get back to him. He told me that if there were 
state funds used, he would likely have to conduct an investigation and indicated that it 
may be illegal for the department to use state funds for such an event. After talking with 
the Department Chair it was determined that state funds were not being used and that we 
would go forward with the event. I called the official and told him of our decision. He 
warned me again that state funds should not be used and that they may still have to 
investigate this incident. 

The forum was held on November 3 rd at 7:00 pm at the Reitz Union on the 
University of Florida Campus sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and Food 
and Resource Economics. A representatives from the Organized Fishermen of Florida 
and Southeastern Fisheries each gave presentations and then answered questions from the 
audience of approximately 50 people in attendance. 


If, in fact, it was net ban supporters that generated the call by the Comptroller 
General to dissuade us from holding our forum on such short notice could be another sign 
of the power differential that the fishermen were facing. Further evidence of the political 
connections of the SOS campaign was clear when they were able to schedule another 
episode of the Florida Crossroads series to debate the net ban several months after the 
original episode had aired. The net ban coalition was very bothered by the initial episode 
of Florida Crossroads as they considered it too one-sided in favor of the commercial 
fishing industry. Because of their objections, and some likely political arm-twisting, the 
producers agreed to do another segment with a different format. The second segment 
was a debate between the commercial and recreational sectors. The participants for the 
commercial side were the director of the Cortez OFF and the consultant with the SCPA. 
For the recreational side an officer of the FCA and the director of the Florida League of 
Anglers. The debate took place in September of 1993. 

The commercial fishing industry was politically connected, but not that well 
connected. They relied on political connections to local representatives who still held 
some empathy for the working class fishermen, but they were becoming few and far 
between. They were also counting on that same empathy which the governor and his 
cabinet seem to hold, but that would also change with a new election. 

The idea that there was credible scientific evidence for the net ban was repeatedly 
challenged by the commercial fishing industry. Florida Sea Grant had considered 
developing fact sheets on various species offish that were both recreational and 
commercially important. These fact sheets were to include landings information for both 
sectors. However, after soliciting comments on the fact sheets from both sides, the 


recreational sector protested that the fact sheets were too favorable toward the 
commercial sector and the plan was abandoned. 1 The fact sheets are a common 
publication format for various types of information and in this case would have compared 
recreational and commercial landings of different species. Data at that time indicated that 
the recreational catch for many species was often greater than that taken by the 
commercial sector as mentioned before. 

This is an important example of how certain information was suppressed during the 
campaign to ban nets. While the SOS campaign was successful in their use of 
misinformation (i.e., number of porpoise deaths by small-scale gill nets, by-catch in the 
gill net fishery, stock depletion, etc.) the commercial side had little or no success in 
getting factual information about their fishing activity to the forefront. This was in part 
due to the ability of the SOS campaign to use effective images which can have far more 
appeal than statistics or graphs. It is hard to find an evocative image for landings offish. 

The scientific cornmunity was relatively silent on the entire issue during the 
campaign and it was only after the passage of the amendment that some members did 
speak out against the amendment and contradict some of the claims of the SOS 
campaign. In fact, one of the state's preeminent stock assessment scientists stated that 
regulations were in place prior to the net ban that would have brought mullet out of the 
overfished status within the next two years (Savage 1995). 

The supporters of the net ban campaign circulated a "white paper" that supposedly 
provided a social and economic assessment of the proposed initiative which attempted to 
draw conclusions about the anticipated impacts of a net ban in Florida through a 

1 Personal communication with Jay Humphries, Florida Sea Grant. 


comparison of the impacts in Texas (Ditton 1994). The paper emphasized a limited 
impact upon the commercial industry if a net ban were implemented and pointed to a 
beneficial impact from an increased recreational fishing economy as a result. The 
difficulty with those claims was that there was no scientific evidence from Texas since 
there had been no social or economic impact research whatsoever conducted to determine 
the impacts of a net ban there. In addition, the economic figures that were used to argue 
for an increased benefit from recreational fishing were not comparable to those that 
supposedly demonstrated a much less valuable commercial fishery. Still the argument 
was put forth as sufficient reason to support the net ban campaign. 

Prior to the vote on the constitutional amendments, some agencies passed 
proclamations in support of the commercial fishing industry and opposing the net ban 
amendment. On September 27 th - the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council which 
manages fisheries in federal waters sent a letter to the Governor of Florida in which the 
Council proclaimed that the net ban amendment had not been "evaluated on the basis of 
scientific information through the appropriate fishery management agencies." Manatee 
County passed a resolution in support of the fishing industry of Cortez Village on 
September 13 . The proclamation pointed out the important economic value of the 
commercial fishing industry to the county as well as their efforts to restore wetlands. 

The amendment to restrict gill net fishing in state waters was on the ballot for the 
November 8 th election in 1 994. The voters in the state approved the amendment with an 
overwhelming majority of over 70 percent. The commercial fishing industry was left in 
shambles, unable to fathom such a defeat. The regulations prohibiting entangle gill nets 
would become effective in July 1, 1995. 


Post Net Ban 

After the net ban became effective, the state began a series of projects to help 
alleviate the impacts. So called, one-stops were set up where fishing families could find 
out about the various different programs that were available for assistance. A net buy- 
back program was initiated to buy back gillnets that were now illegal in state waters. The 
program came under fire as some fishermen began to acquire substantial amounts of 
money from nets that may or may not have been used previously in the mullet fishery 
(Bergstrom 1995). 

Additionally, the state began an intensive enforcement program to ensure that 
fishermen were not going to continue to use gillnets (Morrissey 1995). As time went on, 
more and more regulations were written to ensure the net ban would be effective. 
Fishermen, on the other hand, began using various modified nets to circumvent the laws, 
attempting numerous different adaptations of the 500 square foot mesh designation 
desperately trying to maintain some type of net fishery. All the while, legal challenges 
were being filed trying to overturn the amendment (Morrissey 1995a; Voyles 1997) and 
some fishermen continued to use illegal nets (Kelly 2002). 

It was not clear what the costs of implementing the net ban would be. Some 
speculation placed the price tag as high as $25 million (Editorial 1995). Although there 
was no baseline research conducted to measure the impact of the net ban on fishing 
families, earlier research conducted by Smith (1995) and a follow-up study conducted in 
1997-98 was able to capture some impacts (Smith et al. 2003). The research showed that 
there were significant mental health impacts for both husbands and wives as they 
perceived increased stress and depression as a result of the net ban. Furthermore, the 
research also showed that there were distinct differences in how both husbands and wives 


experienced and coped with these mental health impacts. These types of mental health 
impacts have been documented before among shrimp fishermen in the U.S. Gulf of 
Mexico as they faced increasing regulation of their fishery (Johnson et al. 1998). This 
certainly brings into question how fisheries managers measure the impacts of their 
regulations when they tend to focus on fishermen and the firm, when it is more likely a 
family business organized around a household (Durrenberger 1994) and rarely do they 
have ways of documenting these types of social impacts. 

While the research did document important traumas suffered by many families, 
those who were able to remain fishing appeared resilient and were able to cope 
effectively with the net ban. However, because the study considered only married 
couples, those who may have divorced as a result of the net ban were not included. 
Neither were those families who moved as a result. Of the original 95 families studied 68 
remained intact still residing in Florida. Of those remaining, 44 were included in the 
follow-up study. It is difficult to measure the entire impact of the net ban on Florida's 
fishing families with no baseline to compare the present situation. While the cost may 
not have been near $25 million, it is clear that costs were considerable and for fishing 
families, the costs may continue to increase as they switch to other fisheries which in turn 
may require further regulation and dealers attempt to adapt to changing markets. 

In terms of the impacts on the commercial fishing industry, Table 7-1 shows that 
for the species selected there was a rather dramatic drop in landings, effort and dockside 
value. These declines correspond with similar declines in the number of fishermen 
fishing for mullet, spotted sea trout and pompano. However, if the intended effect of the 
net ban was to improve the status of all of these finfish, the benefits are unclear. Stock 


status for mullet has improved, but was improving prior to the net ban as mentioned 

earlier. For other species like bluefish, spotted sea trout and pompano, the effect of the 

net ban is uncertain for overfishing still occurs and may be a result of increased 

recreational or commercial harvest. Spanish mackerel have recovered and are no longer 

overfished since the net ban. 

Table 7-1. Percentage Change in Average Annual Florida Commercial Landings, Effort 
and Dockside Value for Selected Species after the Net Ban. 




Dockside Value 





Spotted Sea Trout 




Spanish Mackerel 
















Source: Adams et al. 1999 
However, one of the many impacts from the net ban is the shifting of effort. Once 
unable to continue fishing entanglement gear, many commercial fishermen switched to 
other species like blue crab or fished offshore for species like shark and grouper. This 
additional effort places new species under stress creating the need for more regulation to 
contain effort in these fisheries. 

For Cortez, the impact has been a steady and gradual change. The local OFF 
chapter is practically nonexistent. The former director has become a truck driver and no 
longer fishes for a living. The statewide OFF has seen a dramatic decrease in 
membership. Other fishing organizations have sprung up in its place as the former 
president of the local chapter has started anew in the Panhandle. The CVHS continues its 
preservation efforts as the director continues to persevere and was able to complete the 
National Register Project which culminated in the historic village being placed on the 
National Register of Historic places. She continues to fight for a location for Burton's 


store which remains across from the AP Bell fish house; although the FISH voted to 
move the building within five years or destroy it in 1999. The FISH director sold his 
house and moved back to Baltimore. The organization continues to grow under the 
leadership of the former OFF secretary and manager of a fish house. The organization 
was instrumental in getting Cortez designated a Florida Waterfronts Community with the 
support of the County. FISH had acquired the old volunteer fire house from the fire 
district as Cortez no longer had a volunteer fire department. The old fire house became 
the community center and offices for the Florida Waterfront's project The Florida 
Waterfronts program was designed to help communities revitalize their waterfront by 
providing seed money to develop programs to address local issues of economic 

Figure 7-1. Old Schoolhouse at West End of Village. 

The county purchased the old school house at the west end of the village with plans 
to convert it to a community center (Figure 7-1). Furthermore, the county has recently 


hired a community organizer to assist the village with its endeavors to bring the 
community center to fruition. 

FISH on its own has recently purchased land adjacent to the school that was 
designated sensitive and part of a contingency plan through which the school house was 
purchased. The monies from the fishing festival are now controlled by FISH and stay 
within the village and have provided most of the funds for land purchases, although 
donations contribute a significant portion. In addition, the organization has been 
recognized recently by several different conservation and preservation organizations and 
has received cash awards. 

The former Neriah Taylor boatworks was chosen for the location of filming for the 
movie "Great Expectations" with Robert DiNero. The house was featured in the movie 
as the home of the fisherman uncle with several scenes from inside the home. Neriah's 
son Alcee continues to act as curator of the small museum (Figure 7-2). 

Figure 7-2. Taylor Boatworks. 


The Bayshore fish house was purchased by a local Cortez fisherman who now 
operates his bait fishing vessel and others along with a retail market and a restaurant. In 
addition, he has recently purchased the former Horizon restaurant that sits across the 
canal and is opening a second restaurant. 

The Sigma fish house closed shortly after the net ban was implemented and moved 
all operations to its St. Petersburg headquarters. The fish house has subsequently been 
purchased by a wealthy Sarasota businessman who plans on building luxury sailboats. 
His plans include several waterfront condos and possibly luxury apartments or "boatels." 
Several residents are in the process of planning resistance to the development. 


The overwhelming support for the "net ban" amendment confused many 
commercial fishermen and their families. They just did not understand how so many 
people could be persuaded to vote for such a devastating amendment. What they did not 
understand was that in the most heavily populated areas of Florida, the majority of voters 
had little knowledge of the commercial fishing industry. The image that the SOS 
campaign was able to present through their efforts and the wording on the ballot made the 
issue seem to be one of conservation and good for the environment. In contrast, the 
commercial fishing industry was unable to put forward any distinct image that was either 
powerful or pervasive enough to change that perception. This was in part due to the 
difference in the amount of financial resources each group controlled with the 
recreational sector spending a far greater amount than the commercial sector throughout 
the campaign. However, the commercial fishing industry had also splintered into several 
different factions, each with a different approach to fighting the SOS campaign which 


greatly hampered their efforts to counter with a strong image with which voters could 

That image of resistance used so successfully by the SOS campaign was in some 
ways influenced by the changing role of science in fisheries management. Where once 
fishermen were sought out for their knowledge of the resource, over time fisheries 
management had come to rely more on scientific models to measure stock status. With 
this shift not only did fishermen lose influence, but their knowledge and comprehension 
of how management decisions were being made was also undermined. It required higher 
education and understanding of scientific processes few fishermen possessed. The 
language of stock assessments had little resemblance to their traditional knowledge of the 
fishery. These were becoming two very different cultural models of how the environment 
works. There was an inherent conflict as they came together in management forums that 
were based partly on a communication breakdown as two different regimes of nature 
were being presented. The political ecology of fisheries management was becoming a 
process dominated by scientists and professionals who spoke a different language, one of 
Spawning Potentials Ratios (SPR) and mortality rates; all part of the rational scientific 
process. Therefore, any questions as to the efficacy of the models or process were 
dismissed as resistance. 

In many ways what was occurring in Cortez, was a model for what was happening 
statewide to fishermen, their families and their communities. The "growth machine" 
responsible for developing Florida's coast had been putting pressure on the resident's of 
fishing communities through higher property values and taxes as the coastal populations 
grew. In addition, a demographic shift was occurring as a result of this population 


growth and the general populace of Florida now held values much different than those 
whom were born and raised on its shorelines. The net ban campaign capitalized on those 
differences and relied more on those who held a more urban outlook and who far 
outnumbered those who might have empathy and identify with the more rural or pastoral 
vision of Cortez. 

During the net ban campaign it was difficult for FISH and CVHS to accomplish 
many of their goals as the image being proffered by the net ban campaign was having 
some spillover effect into other aspects village life. Both state and local politics were 
being influenced by the powerful recreational lobby and anything that favored 
commercial fishing was seen as a potential target for retribution. Therefore, many 
potential funding sources were reluctant to offer any support. But, another critical point 
was the lack of a unified voice coming from Cortez as a result of the division between 
FISH and CVHS. The appropriated image of Cortez often differed between these two 
organizations which made consensus difficult to attain, thereby putting forth a 
questionable image of the community. 

Division among fishermen was a major problem, as both the local and the statewide 
organizations splintered during a critical point in time. If ever there was a time for them 
to remain united, it was during the campaign to take away their livelihood. Although the 
OFF had a long history of effective lobbying, it was unprepared for the scope of the 
campaign to ban nets. Joining with other commercial fishing organizations presented its 
own problems as the commercial fishing industry overall was divided by gear types and 
between producers and distributors. There was no single voice for the commercial 
fishing industry to counter the very strong and unified voice coming from their detractors. 


The various forms of resistance that were once a source of pride for many 
Cortesians now became a liability. Their resistance had served them well in the past, 
insulating them from many of the intrusions that other coastal fishing communities were 
unable to avoid. But, as they continued to challenge intrusions both on land and on the 
water, their claims of injustice were not seen as valid. Resistance was immoral and self- 
serving, far from the image that Cortesians had steeped themselves in for generations. 

Characterizing commercial fishermen's resistance as immoral and self-serving is 
common within the many conflicts around the world between people who fear being 
displaced and those who promote development or conservation (Oliver-Smith 2002). If 
those who are to be displaced do not go willingly, then their forced ouster must be 
justified. In the net ban campaign, commercial fishermen were portrayed as lawbreakers 
and poor stewards of the environment. In the eyes of their detractors, commercial 
fishermen needed to be removed from inshore waters. Resistance was then seen as 
further evidence of their bad behavior. 

Throughout the events that surrounded the campaign to ban nets in Florida, I 
continually reflected upon my experience in other fishing communities for it seemed to 
me that there was a constant struggle wherever I went. That struggle is the same, no 
matter where it takes place, as change is continuous for most coastal fishing 
communities. Granted these types of natural resource communities have familiarity with 
the seasonal and sometimes unforeseen changes in their environment. Fishermen, their 
families and communities must continually adapt to shifting patterns of resource 
availability and seasonal climate change. Now they must adapt to shifting patterns of 



demographic change and political climate. But the question remains as to whether they 
can adapt to such change and still remain a fishing community. 

Coastal areas are where sea meets the land and freshwater merges with saltwater; a 
place where one peers out over the ocean and wonders what is beyond and below or 
where fishermen catch their first glimpse of land after a long fishing trip. Here is a 
transitional stage from one very stable environment to another that is rather unstable. The 
uncertainty, the unknown, the constant change seems to lure many to these places of 
rising tides, shifting sands and constant breezes, and in so doing adds further to their 
dynamic character. 

Coastalscapes, as they might be called, act as the interface between seascape, 
landscape and humanscape. Those who work and live in these environments have 
historically adapted to both land and sea utilizing resources from both environs. Coping 
with an ever-changing environment, coastal inhabitants become adept opportunists, 
taking advantage of seasonal variations in climate and resources. 

In adapting to these coastalscapes fishermen have developed certain cultural 
features that have allowed them to survive and in some cases prosper within their 
communities. However, whether those cultural adaptations will continue to provide them 
with the necessary means to survive may be questionable. Historic and recent changes 
have proved troublesome to many long-term coastal inhabitants preventing them from 
being able to follow their historical patterns of adaptation and way of life. 

In developing a strong sense of place attachment through years of fishing and living 
in this area, Cortez fishermen created an enclave that no longer fits well with its 
surrounding social environment. They have fashioned an identity that resembles a more 


traditional and dated image that is not compatible with the redefinition of the resources 
upon which they depend. In competition for those resources, that negative image 
severely hindered their ability to retain their place in the political arena. Whether that 
changing image or loss of power was responsible or not, a division formed among the 
various commercial fishing interests at a time when they needed a united front to combat 
the net ban campaign. That division formed between a group that favored continued 
resistance on the water and less bargaining in the management forum; while the other 
faction saw a distinct need to pursue the challenges in the political arena and a need to 
"clean up their image" on the water. 

As pointed out earlier, when self-image is in doubt, others are able to manipulate 
that image to match their own objective. This is exactly what happened to the 
commercial fishermen in Cortez and in the larger State of Florida as outdoor writers and 
recreational interests fashioned an identity in the media that would ensure the passage of 
the net ban initiative. That changing image associated with the resource was just one sign 
of a larger change in the power relations between fishermen, their communities, political 
opponents and other interest groups in the state that favor increasing tourism and 
recreational fishing. That change has been evolving as fishing communities lose their 
rural character with the rapidly encroaching urban sprawl. 

With increasing regulation and incursions into their community Cortez fishermen 
and their families continued to participate in acceptable forms of resistance, contesting 
tourism development and fisheries management through bureaucratic challenges and 
political maneuvering. However, their ability to succeed, as in the past, has been 


impaired because of the changing power relations and the increasing sophistication with 
which fisheries management has turned to scientific stock assessment. 

Fishermen no longer fish in isolated estuaries and bays hidden away from the rest 
of the world. Most of their shoreline is now developed and therefore they are more 
visible as more and more people are on the water. Their ability to continue with covert 
resistance on the water has become increasingly more difficult. Fishermen must now 
compete with a growing tourism and recreational sector moving closer and closer to their 

The definition of the resource has changed to accommodate the growing coastal 
population. That growth is not only in numbers but also, also in political clout. State 
legislators, along with county and city commissioners, have begun to accommodate that 
political force and are less inclined to accommodate commercial fishermen and their 

The scientific discourse over fishery management has become increasingly more 
sophisticated and less comprehensible by fishermen. Where management once depended 
upon fishermen for information, they now rely upon complicated sampling techniques 
and complex models of the scientific approach. Terminology changes so quickly that 
fishermen have little chance to learn the old before new ones are introduced. 

Cortez is a mere representation of these changes that seem to grow as rapidly as the 
population surrounding it. The attachment to a more rural lifestyle tied to a culture of 
fishing and identity are increasingly mismatched with the surroundings and cannot keep 
pace. Their resistance continues to play a prominent role in daily life as it has been 
rumored that some still use gill nets and they continue to fight the bureaucratic battles 



with state and local governments (Kelly 2002). But that resistance cannot last long as 
they have fewer and fewer places from which to conceal themselves away from the view 
of the surrounding population. As Griffith points out, it may be that very nature of 
fishermen whose "very strength is also a source of weakness. As deeply as their roots 
reach into the estuary's gifts, their failure may lie in the everyday nature of their 
resistance..." (Griffith 1999:181). 

By placing Cortez and the recent events into the context of a natural resource 
community and examining the culture of resistance I hope that this example reveals the 
complexity of human behavior such that it becomes obvious to fisheries managers and 
others that reaction to imposed regulations is not just a matter of breaking the law. There 
are often strong cultural ties and identity maintenance that drive these behaviors. 
Whether these kinds of behaviors can continue to coexist with the changing coastalscapes 
will remain to be seen. 



Informant's name, present address, year of birth, marital status, year of marriage, 

Parents' names and ages? Mother's maiden name. Where do they live now? 

How many brothers and sisters? Ages? Where are they now? 

Both grandparents' name and residence? 

Children's names and ages? 

Father's and mother's occupational history? Was either unemployed at any time. 

How long did you live in the house where you were born? Where and when did you 
move? Do you remember why these moves were made? 

Can you tell me where the first house you lived in Cortez was located? Is it still in here? 

How many rooms were in the house? 

How it was furnished? Did you have enough beds, chairs, etc. 

Did anyone other than your parents and brothers and sisters live in the house? 

Who was in charge of household chores, cleanup and such? 

Did your father help with household chores? 

How did your mother spend most of her day? 

Where did she spend most of her time? 

Did she have any certain part of the house that was considered her territory? 



What about your father, was their a part of the house that he spent most of his time? 

Did you have daily tasks that you were required to do? 

Were you expected to go to bed at a certain time? 

Did you have your own bedroom/bed? 

What about your brothers and sisters, did they have their own rooms? 


Where did the family have their meals? 

Who did the cooking? 

When did you have breakfast? Who was present? Do you remember anything in 
particular that you ate for breakfast when you were young? 

Did you have anything different on certain days (Sundays)? 

Did your mother or father bake bread or other things? 

Did your parents keep a vegetable garden? 

Did your parents keep any livestock? 

Did your father do any hunting for food? 

Did you eat a lot offish? 

How was it prepared? Who prepared it? 

Were you allowed to talk during meals? 

What was your parent's attitude about leaving food on the plate? 

Do you remember your mother having less food so the family could have more? 


Was your mother an easy person to talk to? 

Did she show affection? 

If you had any worries could you share them with her? 


Was your father an easy person to talk to? 

Did he show affection? 

If you had any worries could you share them with him? 

As a child was there any older person that you felt more comfortable with than your 

When grown-ups were talking, were you allowed to join in? 

If you did something that your parents disapproved of, what would happen? 

If you were punished, by whom? 

Ever by another parent? 

Would you say that you received ideas about how to behave from your parents? Either 
one in particular? 


What were some of the holidays that you celebrated in your home? 

How were they special, did you do anything different? 

Did you have any musical instruments in the home? 

Who played what? 

Did you make music together as a family? 

Were there family or neighborhood get togethers when you were growing up? 

Did you ever take vacations when you were young? Where would you go? 

Were your parents religious people? 

Did they attend a particular church? 

How often? 

Did you take part in church activities when you were young? 

What other activities organized by the church did you take part in? 

Did you say prayers before you went to bed at night? 

Did you ever say family prayers? 

How much would you say religion meant to you as a child? 


Was your father interested in politics? 

In what ways was he active in politics? 

What political party did he support? 

Was your father active in the fishing union movement? 

When your parents weren't working, how did they spend their time? 

Did your mother have any interests outside the home? 

Did your father attend any clubs or pubs? 

Did your father like sports? 


As a child who did you play with? 

Did you have a special group of friends? 

What games did you play? 

Did boys and girls play the same games together? 

As a child, did you have any hobbies? 


Did your parents socialize much when you were growing up? 

With who? Relatives or friends? 

Did they entertain at home? 


Did people call casually, without an invitation? Who would? 

When you were young, were you taught to treat any group differently from another (like 
blacks for instance)? 

How were you taught to address adults? Mr., Mrs. Ma'am. 

What are your first memories of school? Where was that? 

How did you feel about school, teachers? 

What was taught or emphsized in the school? 

How old were you when you left school? 


What was your first job after leaving school? 

If fishing, did you have your own boat or fish with someone else? (Who did you fish 

What type of fishing did you do? 

What do your remember most about those early days of fishing? 

What types of boats were you fishing? 

What types of motors? 

Who built them? 

Do you recall any women fishers in Cortez? 

Do you know of any women fishers in Cortez, today? 

Do you recall any myths or superstitions about women and fishing? 

In what ways is Cortez different from other communities? 

Do you feel there is a sense of community here? 

What buildings or places in Cortez symbolize the community? 

What is the most important change that you have witnessed in Cortez? When did it take 


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Michael Jepson was born and raised in West Liberty, Iowa and served in the U.S. 
Navy from 1972-1975. He received his Bachelor of Science in sociology from Northeast 
Missouri State University (now Truman State). His Master of Arts in anthropology was 
received in 1987 at the University of Missouri. He entered the doctoral program in 
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fisheries management, fishermen and their families and communities. He was the first 
social scientist (non-economist) to serve as technical staff on a Regional Fishery 
Management Council in the United States when he was hired by the South Atlantic 
Fishery Management Council in 1994. His work has continued with a specific focus on 
identifying fishing communities in both the U.S. South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. 


I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable 
standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a 
dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 

AnthoQy/Oliver-Smith, Chairman 
Professor of Anthropology 

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable 
standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a 
dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy - / 

Gerald Murray 

Associate Professor of Anthropology 

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable 
standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a 
dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 

Anthony Paredes 
Professor of Anthropology 

I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable 
standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a 
dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. 


James Cato 

Professor of Food and Resource Economics 

This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Department of 
Anthropology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and to the Graduate School and 
was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of 

May 2004 

Dean, Graduate School 



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